Sicily, Christmas, and I miss you
17.12.2009 - 28.12.2009
First of all, Merry Christmas to everyone! I miss you madly, and I hope you all enjoyed some baking and good company over some time off. I will be home next Christmas to join you.
The last two weeks since I have written last have been very busy and hectic. If I want to be a pessimist about it, I can list off that I
1. was in a tram that crashed
2. lost my camera
3. had all of my roommates move back home
4. got stuck in a Sicilian airport with two cancelled flights and 28 hours of delays by myself
5. got hit by a car on Christmas eve
6. and spent Christmas writing a ten page film paper.
I’m choosing the more optimistic approach- let me start from the beginning…
With Christmas quickly approaching, that meant that school was quickly finishing up. What this also meant was that my roommates, whom had been the heart and soul of my study abroad experience, were leaving. We had studied together during the week and travelled together on the weekends. There may have been a little bit of partying in between.
We had one last hurrah at our trusty pizzeria across the street from our soon-to-be lonely apartment. It was lonely in the fact that I would be the only one to live out the full term of our housing contract to be terminated January 29, 2010.
On the way to the bar we sung Christmas carols throughout our faithful tram 14. We got yelled at over the speaker system, and I managed to video record some of the commotion. I’m certain that this is the reason I lost my camera later that evening, the evidence was gone. We didn’t know it then, but it was the last time we would all get off at the “Lanza M2” stop together.
We adored our castle on the way to the bar as it was set up with bright lights and beamed greater than ever. We partied hard that night. Instant replay would surely highlight me sobbing to a classmate about my missing roommate only to literally be turned around to find her standing back to back with me. Another noteworthy moment being a snow-fight at the bar in the first snowfall in Milan with some class-mates I likely will never see again. The thought now makes me a little queasy, but I can appreciate the fun that we had in our time. That is the most anyone can ask for.
I decided to book a trip to Sicily in order to leave before any of my roommates. I didn’t want to be left behind one by one because I felt like that would be depressing, and I am terrible with goodbyes or any other situations for that matter where I am expected of anything.
Sicily was beautiful. One day I would love to rent a car and just drive all over the island, in the summer though.
One of the days it rained there, and it was a little cold. However, I was able to travel to two beach towns, Mondello and Cefalu, to stick my feet in the ocean and pick shells. It was wonderful.
My base camp was Palermo, and my commander and chief was Giuseppe. He was the owner of the hostel that I stayed in. When I say hostel, I mean the home I was welcomed into. He took me for drinks with a couple other of the guests and made me tea when I came back from the pouring rain. He was so kind, and I am thankful for the hospitality that he showed me while staying in Palermo. He gave me all sorts of tips about what to do and where to go and what to eat.
That first day I wondered through the streets alone. I sat by the ocean and actually managed to write a little. Along the marina there were large concrete blocks that greeted the water to the land. There was a skyline of a rigid mountainous coastline, the sea, and a densely populated boardwalk. Some Italian boys pestered me, but I was busy noticing a couple that sat peacefully on one of the larger blocks. They were watching the tide and enjoying each others company. This scene of a limitless pathway, an endless horizon into the ocean, and a happy couple made me recognize how alone I was. The significance was that I didn’t feel lonely. I felt content in the unknown, and I marveled at the potential for what lay ahead. Being alone and being lonely are two very different things. I sat there and wondered how long I could last feeling so empowered.
I continued to the botanical gardens and took in the many different species of trees. It was like fern gully in the variety of vegetation. There were trunks with more trunks intertwined, trunks that remained the same width consistently from top to bottom, orange trees, and trees that looked like Chewy from Star Wars because they were disturbingly furry!
One of the interesting things that I noticed in Palermo was that there was a bullet proof glass shelter in the train station. Mafia much?
I met a Dutch tour guide who lives in Rome and we went for supper. I tried Sfinchoni pizza which is typical of Sicily, and he gave me History 101 of Italy. He has his masters in International Relations and made me feel a bit naive. Nonetheless we had good conversation throughout the evening, and I felt safer walking around at night with him as he was at least six foot four.
The off season proved itself in Sicily over my trip. There were a mere few staying in the hostel, and one of the nights I was even the only guest! I didn’t mind though, my week had been crazy.
The second day I went to Cefalu. It is a famous beach town in Sicily, and I would back that statement. It was beautiful. I sat on the beach and watched two men fish. The view was so breathtaking that I was able to just sit there without any entertainment for about an hour. I walked around to find a better seat, and stood on a pier with the tide splashing up against the rocks below me. I felt powerful somehow, like I had fate in my hands.
A tremendous windstorm arose that blew sand into my eyes, and I resided in a quaint cafe. I consoled in a pot of “caldo” (hot) tea and tried the beloved Sicilian sweet Canolli -pastry wrapped like a taco filled with flavoured crème.
In Mondello, I got off the bus and landed straight on the beach. I had brought an umbrella because it had rained in Palermo the day before. I just sat on the beach and soaked in the sun.
The sun, oh that glorious rejuvenation of heat. The sun and the ocean – salt and pepper. What is it that is so soothing about waves? The process kills little turtles and the other underdogs of marine life, but for me, as I lay on the cold sand, the waves were almost a lullaby. The rhythmic ebb and flow serve consistency and like the chorus of your favourite song, you listen and come to expect that roar and crash followed by the echoes and soothing verse of the washing tide. You know the beat of this song; still you want to hear it play on repeat. The waves of the ocean are the lullaby, the rays of the sun are the comfort of a loved ones arms, and the sand is the softness of a bed. Relaxation.
I walked down the beach after picking shells to find a spot for lunch. Spaghetti and mussels and a beer. What a day. They happened to bring me a big beer, and well, I decided to go with the flow of my wonderful day. I ate really fast because of my hunger, and then they pressured me to leave ,so I ended up drinking really fast.
I was in mid-afternoon drunk as hell by myself in paradise. I literally found my way back to the bus by walking along the beach again and following my tracks back. The reason I knew which footsteps were mine was because I had been walking with an umbrella as a cane because of the rain the day before! I could see the steps and the holes where the umbrella had pierced the sand. Sherlock Holmes here-that’s right.
I was to return to an empty apartment that same day. How sad was that. Unfortunately, that was the least of my worries. I got stuck in the Palermo airport before reaching loneliness. My first flight was scheduled to leave at 6, but I got there at about 4 because I wanted to finish my book, yes I’m a dork.
The plane was delayed until 1am when it was finally cancelled. I didn’t even realize what was going on because I couldn’t get a single word in when the stewardess arrived to tell us the bad news. I honestly thought that there was a hurricane outside because of the wind that was howling against the windows, and the mob that was attacking that poor airline employee.
The people were horrendous. I am so disappointed sitting here replaying this situation in my head. I literally had to screech “Stop yelling!” And that didn’t help anything. In Italian lines, nice people finish last. I patiently waited to hear what all the fuss was about, but in the mean time I was literally pushed aside by old ladies and interrupted by seemingly powerful men. By the time that it was my turn I started crying I was so panicked. I just wanted to know what was happening and all of the waiting around and yelling in Italian had really worked me up.
A stewardess took me to an information desk where I had to sit until 5 am to seek help. She meant 6 am. Fifty or so frantic people squished to the information desk for that long hour hoping for answers that would please them.
By the time I got to the front and asked who could speak Italian again, I was freaked right out. The lady told me that I could either phone a certain number or pay thirty Euros for her to change it. The bank machines were down, so I asked to pay with Visa. No gold. Who doesn’t accept plastic?
There was nothing for me to do. I literally just started crying into my arm because there was no solution and no one to help me and I was just plain exhausted. I had no phone, and no access to money. How would I get my next flight? She grabbed my old boarding pass from the overcrowded counter and returned 10 minutes later with news that she had taken care of it. Thank god for the good people. It was probably because I was the only one not yelling at her.
I sat around for a few more hours only to find another cancelled flight. Now what? There were even more people lined up this time from more flight cancellations that were piling up. Everything was backing up, and my free ride with the lady at the info desk had already been used up. I plotted and plotted, but I shamefully had to call home – collect.
My mom and dad were woken up at midnight to clean up my slop. How pathetic. I thought that I could do this all on my own, but I had failed. This was the worst feeling in the world. Even worse was trying to hold back the tears and seem alright to my family. I failed at that too. My parents had to fix MY problem. I felt like a child. They rebooked my flight online for me. Thank god for my family. What would I have done if I had no one to call?
This flight actually made it. By this time, I had had five café macchiatos, been through airport security 3 times, eaten a piece of pizza and a box of Ritz crackers, read one book, doodled all over another book, slept about 4 hours, and got one invited back to Palermo by a hot Sicilian painter. The only good bit about this experience was that I met a guy who could stand the smell and look of me after 28 hours of Tom Hanks’n it in the airport.
One problem was that there weren’t enough seats to fit everyone on the flight that actually took off. I don’t know how that happened, but as I was giving my ticket a man actually grabbed my arm. Two boys has snuck around and budged, and I guess he thought that I was with them. I literally yelled “Don’t f#@%ing touch me”. Got my voice back again, however as I walked onto the plane and was literally blown aside by the wind I thought that this plane wouldn’t make it either due to foreseen irony for me getting a place on the plane. It felt like the Titanic. Thankfully ours didn’t go down.
The disgusting display of raw animalism that I witnessed was enough to lose all faith in humanity, and only days before Christmas. Men pushing seniors, men yelling at women, people trying to push all together through the guard who was trying to alternate sides of people being let through.. I am telling you, I was horrified. There wasn’t much to do by this time but laugh, especially because I couldn’t understand the Italian. I swore and laughed, and hoped like hell to get back to Milan. It was December 23rd. I didn’t even consider not being in Canada for Christmas at this point. Now I just wanted to be back in Italy – home. What a revelation, Italy being home that is.
I got back in one piece. I shuttled from the airport for an hour and a half only to miss the last public transportation by 20 minutes. What a shame. Walked in the slush to find a taxi and wondered how much I was about to pay to get home. Only 16 Euros! (I wish I knew that all semester before sleeping in the airport countless times!)
Unfortunately I had no money, so I ran upstairs in my apartment to find some.
MARAH!!!!! Marah’s flight had been canceled too! I was so happy, but I had to find money. I had no money; she had no money, so I ran down the four flights of stairs and down one block to the bank machine. Money! I ran back down the block only to be teased by my taxi driver. He was kind, but I just wanted to be home.
Marah pardoned me for smelling so foully, and I was relieved to see her at 2 am. My mother had stayed home all day worrying about me. I skyped her, and I felt that I was on my way to normal again.
Food, sleep, shower.. sanity.
It is amazing what 28 hours in an airport can do to someone, but I never sank as low as some of those passengers. I will never forget how savage they were.
I now have a phobia of flying! Trains for me!
Thank-god I was home. And not only that, I got to spend a whole other day with Marah. We went shopping by the Duomo, and traded books before I took her to the shuttle bus for the airport that evening. I secretly hoped a tiny bit that she would have more cancellations to stay with me longer. She got home smoothly in time for Christmas though, my Dr. Jeckyl side was pleased for her.
Christmas Eve came so quickly after my flight was delayed for so long. I was to go to my friend Elisha and Josh’s place for Christmas. Elisha’s mom and friend had visited and made it special and feel like some sort of mock Christmas.
I prepared Greek Italian salad (Greek salad with noodles…), baked, and made perogies for the first time. My mom sent me the recipe, and I put in the man power to successfully make some doughy perogies. The cheese in them also wasn’t quite right, but that is because I still haven’t mastered all the types in Italian in the grocery store.
I had felt ok that day. I wrapped little gifts that I had bought my family and put them under the foot and a half tree that we found in our apartment. My family comes January 15th, so I would have a celebration or “Christmas” then.
Only when I was about to leave in the evening and my mom told me Merry Christmas did we both shed a few tears together. Those two simple words put it all in perspective – I wasn’t home for Christmas.
We held back more tears and parted ways. She was to finish working a full day, and I was off into the night by bus with two trays of food, a backpack, and an umbrella.
It was night and it was raining and I was carrying too many things, and I was hit by an S.U.V.
It was yielding to a round-about while I thought he was stopping for me. He was going slowly. I fell into the puddle on the road and dropped most of the things that I had prepared all day. I knew that I couldn’t do Christmas on my own. No matter my efforts, I was alone and foolish. Nonetheless, I got up, scrambled some of my goodies, and hobbled to the sidewalk. I quickly realized that I wasn’t hurt – just scared hopelessly in the rain with my work spread across the road.
The man yelled at me in Italian. I didn’t understand him, but I am assuming, for his sake, it was something like “are you ok?” Immediately there were several people around me, and I couldn’t remember how to say that I couldn’t speak very much Italian. I just showed them my hand shaking and spoke in English. Panic stricken I just walked the block without acknowledging anyone shaky and bawling in the rain to Elisha’s apartment. I waited for her to come down, but a kind man let me in and carried my remaining food up to her apartment.
She didn’t quite realize at first what I was saying when I told her what had just happened. I was still so scared. I don’t think my knees have ever wobbled so intensely or my hand shaken so violently. Her mother looked at my legs and determined that they were swollen, but I am sure that it was just the fat (insert comic relief).
Nonetheless, they set me up with a beer, and Josh set up the movie the Lion King, and my sobs gradually turned into whimpers, my whimpers into tears, and my tears into a smile.
My perogies were salvaged and so was the salad, but not the dressing. One of my peppermint chocolates sneaked into my perogy batch and I was able to let everyone try a little bite, the rest were selfishly taken by the damp street.
We feasted upon brushetta, prawns, calamari, mussels, salmons, perogies, and Greek Italian salad. I was proud that my perogies were gone, and everyone had seconds, and was excited to tell my Baba of their success.
The night really turned around. It was pleasant to fall asleep on Elisha’s couch knowing that there were people with me.
The next morning, Christmas morning, I woke up to return home to write a paper. I had anticipated on writing it the day that my plane was delayed, and then Marah was home as well, so Christmas day – the due date, I had to write a ten page paper. Elisha and her mom invited me for mass and another dinner, but I had to finish this bloody paper.
The holidays have hated me this year. Canadian Thanksgiving- food poisoning, Christmas Eve – hit by a car, Christmas Day – wrote a paper, New years – don’t think I’m not ready… bring it on!!!
Christmas day wasn’t so bad. I spent the morning writing my paper, and by night, my family was opening presents. I Skyped with them for 3 hours! I swear that this idea will soon be an MTV program called “I’ll be Home for Christmas” sponsored by Skype (Copyright that haha). How amazing it was that I could be there for the whole thing, no matter how creepy and voyeuristic it may seem. I do feel badly that I chose to be away for Christmas, and it was me that was accounted for and catered to. I appreciated it to no end though – it almost felt like I was home with my family.
I apologize for the lengthiness of this blog. I really let this one snowball. I think it was because I was waiting for more to add to the pile of drama. I am happy to report, that my life has been boring as of late. I bought a couple pairs of boots... interesting?
There are no photos with this blog, as my camera was lost. It makes me a little sad not to be able to show you the beautiful towns I visited in Sicily, but I am glad to not have one reminder of the Palermo airport. My Sicily is truly my own. I travelled alone and without a camera, and I will be the only one who has the memories of my experiences. How unique.
Tomorrow I will head off to Bologna, by train, for a day trip with my new shiny camera. I will let you know about the chaos soon enough.
Miss you and love you all, hope Santa was good to you,