Thursday, July 28, 2011
Two days left. How did this happen? I’ll be happy to see everyone back home again, my family, my best friends, but, man, will I miss Catania.
I feel like I came here not knowing what to expect. I was beyond nervous. There I was, travelling alone for the first time to a place I had never been. I had no idea what Catania would be like—I had never even heard of the city before applying to the program. All I knew was that I loved Italian and wanted to go somewhere I could be completely immersed in it.
Now that these two months have gone by, I know I made the right choice. CET’s program here has changed me in ways I could have never expected. I’ve met some wonderful people, not only from Italy or America, but also from all over the world. I’ve become more independent and confident and now I trust myself in new situations.
As I look back on my experience here, there are certain moments I will never forget.
Last Monday, for example, two friends from the program and our Catanese friend, Andrea, and I went dancing at the beach, where Steve Aoki was deejaying electro-house music. While we were driving home, around 3AM, we saw it. A glowing orange light coming from Mount Etna. The volcano was erupting! After a moment of disbelief, I started to feel afraid. Would this be Pompeii 2011? Andrea assured us we wouldn’t die and so we decided to drive up the Etna for a better look. We went as close as we could, got out of the car and watched in complete awe. I’ve never felt luckier in my life. The lava was bursting, dancing against the black sky. Afterwards, we absorbed this rare sight by eating freshly baked cornetti, filled with warm nutella. How could anything have been better than that?
Another unforgettable place is Isola Bella at Taormina. It's a cove, with small, smooth stones instead of sand and water so clear that you can see the bottom. The moment I saw it, I knew I had found paradise. We swam there for hours—I never wanted to leave the water. We made our way toward the mouth of the cove, the open sea, and climbed large rocks jutting out of the water. Later, our warm towels greeted us, and we basked in the sun. Afterwards we took a cable car to the town, high above Isola Bella. A gorgeous view, cute shops, and a beautiful chiesa, or church, awaited us. No more than a week passed by before I went back.
So here’s the dilemma—after all these great experiences, how can I ever be content back in the U.S.? How can I get back in the routine of rushing around and checking my Blackberry every ten minutes? How can I settle for mediocre pasta or even cannoli from Mike’s Pastries? I guess what I’ll miss most about Sicily is how I live here, taking a pause at midday, staying out late at night, eating the delicious food, meeting friendly people every day.
Catania really has everything you could ever want. There’s the city, with its nightlife, there’s Etna , and there’s the sea. The people here want to know you, and the best way to learn Italian and to feel at home here is to make an effort to get to know the people. I wish I could stay longer, but I know nothing is going to keep me from coming back to Catania in the future.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Since my arrival in Catania, I have heard about the spectacular July sales and sure enough, on July 2nd, the signs went up and the racks came out, filled with Italian clothing in every color and style imaginable. These sales were especially evident in Siracusa and in the historic district everything seemed to gleam with Italian sophistication. When I concluded that I could not realistically buy everything in sight, I bought Sicilian lemon perfume, colorful scarves from Zara, and of course a cannolo to fuel myself for my shopping excursion.
After we had satisfied our totally understandable materialistic needs, we headed to the beach where the sign read: la playa “che non c'è,” which translates as: the beach that is not or does not exist. This was the perfect way to describe how I felt. The water was so clear and refreshing it felt surreal and therapeutic. Why was this?
The other day, our delightfully down to earth Professoressa S. told us that the ocean and the volcanic soil of Mount Etna had healing properties that often affected our minds and bodies without our knowledge. Whether or not this was a true, scientists did confirm that a paroxysmal eruption occurred on Mount Etna the day after our trip to Siracusa! I distinctly recall sitting on the porch watering a basil plant I had purchased at the market, when I felt something fall onto my head! At first I suspected a bird might be the culprit, but as a thin layer of ash covered all exposed surfaces, it became apparent that it was something else. Though the eruption was harmless, the ash had drifted from nearly two kilometers away! The weekend had given me an glimpse into the two diverse sides of Sicily: the tranquility of the water and the fervor of Etna, two distinct but complimentary aspects of nature. What a wondrous experience!
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Before I visited Catania, I had never prepared food outside of the United States. I believed that like in America, all ingredients were available at all times in a big supermarket, regardless of the season. On my first trip to the “Fiera” (Catania’s outdoor market), I experienced quite a shock. While vendors stretched as far as the eye could see, selling dozens of different fruits and vegetables, ingredients that were out of season were not in stock. At the time, I felt like I was just settling for the ingredients that they were selling.
In my dejected mood, on the way home from the market I decided to relish my sadness by trying one of the fresh strawberries I had bought. Just the smell of the fruit was enough to put a smile on my face. I didn’t remember the last time I had eaten produce so fresh. When I got home and made dinner (Pasta alla Norma, Catania’s signature dish) from scratch, the taste of the eggplant and tomatoes was surreal. In the coming days, I went on to sample all of the season’s best fruits, vegetables, and dishes, and none left me disappointed each one playing on my taste buds like a different song within the same musical medley.
In fact, it seems like the iconic Italian music world has its place in the kitchen as well. After all, Pasta alla Norma is named for the for the famous titular opera by Vincenzo Bellini, a native of Catania. And in our Gastronomy class, we’ve learned that the kitchen appliances are referred to as “gli strumenti” (the instruments/tools), an appropriate name, as in Catania each meal seems like an musical experience. Each flavor is drawn out, and each color comes together on the plate in a soft and pleasant manner using only what is the freshest, without sporting a sticker that denotes “organic” or “cage free.”
So while I certainly will bring back some LavAzza coffee, Casarecci, and Pan di Stelle home with me, I am grateful to also be leaving with a new appreciation for the simple yet bold flavors of Sicily.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Monday, July 4, 2011
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
It was almost as if the sea was an instrument playing the music of crashing waves. I have been to many beaches in my life, and I know that tourists crowd them and disrupt their natural flow.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Thursday, April 28, 2011
As the semester comes to an end, the students are thinking about their favorite CET activities and how the program could have flown by so quickly. Below are some of Angela Pisoni's favorite memories from the Traveling Seminar to Rome.
It is difficult to believe that we’re approaching the final two weeks of our Catanese semester! It seems like yesterday that we took to the skies to travel to Roma for the three-day Traveling Seminar. Leading the way were our Resident Directory Janet Lawrence and Sicilian history professor Ivana Santonocito.
After checking into our hotel on Friday morning, we wasted no time in beginning our Roman adventure. First stop, no surprise, was The Vatican followed by the Sistine Chapel. To our relief, we were able to skip the seemingly endless line to meet our amazing tour guide, who led us through The Vatican Museums, imparting knowledge along the way in a perfect mixture of Italian and English. Later we had a delicious group dinner.
Saturday was chock full of many wonderful sights – the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Museo di Risorgimento.
After the full morning, we had the afternoon free to discover Roma for ourselves. We visited many ‘must-sees’ including the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain (where many a coin was tossed!).
For the final piece of our Roman escapade, we visited Villa Borghese, home of the second largest park in Roma, as well as the Galleria Borghese. Needless to say, it was the perfect bookend for our Roman traveling seminar – bellissimo! Later in the day we all parted ways to embark on our respective spring break travels. Ciao, Roma!
Friday, April 8, 2011
One day I was taking a quick break from my run just outside Piazza Falcone near the seashore. Because of its vast open space and well-preserved concrete, this piazza is a prime spot for pick-up basketball games. Though on this particular day a group of young men were playing a cricket match. As I caught my breath, I leaned up against the fence to get a better view of the action. Within seconds one of the players hit a pop fly out of the fence. The ball landed about ten feet from where I was standing. Quickly, I ran to grab the ball so that I could return it. I approached a player, but he showed no interest in meeting me. The only thing he was looking at was the ball in my hand.
Absentmindedly, instead of using my Italian, I said “Here you go!”
Immediately the man looked up at me. After realizing what I had just said, I corrected myself and said “Mi dispiace, ecco."
He continued to stare for a few more seconds, as if he still did not understand what I said. Loudly, he shouted out to his other friends in what I believe was Hindi. They came circling around me.
I introduced myself and told them where I was from in Italian. The first man understood. He told me they were from India and asked if I wanted to play. My eyes lit up. I was not expecting this to happen.
Within minutes they were throwing me their side-armed pitches that bounced in the dirt coming at me at what seemed like 100 mph. I swung away at every pitch hoping that was the right thing to do. I never could quite get the hang of swinging that awkward, flat bat, but I was able to hit a few that traveled no more than a mere 20 feet.
I probably had close to 30 strikes when I finished batting. Maybe there is no strike limit in cricket. Maybe they were just letting the rules slide a bit for me. After ten minutes I was exhausted.
The first man approached me again, this time he handed me the ball. He pointed to where he had been pitching and said “Go there!” So I went and stood at the artificial mound they had created out of old blankets and waited for him to signal that he was ready. I was nervous.
Even after all my years of playing football and baseball, I knew this probably was not going to be something I was good at. Even though I didn’t know what I was doing, I tried to imitate his actions.
After another ten minutes, he came up to me again, put his hand on my shoulder and just laughed. Probably at my horrible play.
There was not a moment that went by during the game where I didn’t learn something new.
The same goes for everyday life in Catania. It’s possible to meet someone from virtually every corner of the world in this unique city. Anyone you meet, whether they are Sicilian or an immigrant, has an interesting story and shares an equal interest in who you are.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Written by Janet Lawrence, Resident Director
Monday, February 28, 2011
Masks! Confetti! Chocolate-covered treats! Just when we had recovered from Sant’Agata, it wa
s time for Carnevale, Italy’s equivalent of Mardi Gras.
CET hosted a Carnevale Party for students, Language Partners and Italian Roommates. Folks turned up in fabulous masks, costumes and make-up.
taly’s largest Carnevale celebration takes place in Venice, where the masks are meant to
liberate citizens from social class and
inhibitions and just let loose!
Down here in Catania we let loose alright – with some serious snacking and line
Friday, February 25, 2011
Monday, February 21, 2011
Eventually the man returned, and we were finally able to enter the mysterious shop. The walls are bright orange and covered in tall, wooden bookshelves, which hold hundreds of books—some old, some new, some tall, some short, some green, some written by Spanish authors, some by Japanese. The only book we could focus on was the wine menu on the table in front of us. There are wines from all over Europe and Sicily in particular. We got generous-sized glasses of wine and a plate of fresh bruschetta; the perfect accompaniment to Italian language homework. Of course, we couldn’t do homework forever and soon were distracted by the shopkeeper’s dog.