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.