Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Lava was Bursting, Dancing against the Black Sky.

Written by Stephanie Klinkenberg-Ramirez, Student, CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania.

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 26, 2011

Missing Sicilian Life

Written by Anna Barbaresi, Student, CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania.

When I first came to Catania, I wondered how I would feel as

the program came to a close. I thought that maybe after two months I would be anxious to escape the Sicilian heat, craving some good old American

cuisine, and ready to reunite with friends and family.

Although a part of me is looking forward to some of the everyday conveniences in America, as I prepare to leave I am instead focused on all of the amazing things I will miss in Sicily. My housemates and I have been discussing the painful prospect of no longer being surrounded by warm beaches. We wonder if there is any place to buy arancini or ricotta salata in the Boston area. Slowly we are realizing the many aspects, some big and some small,

of Sicilian life that we have grown to love.

On our traveling seminar to Palermo, I realized just how much I had learned both in and out of the classroom during our time in Sicily. After studying the history of

the region, I was able to see the unique details that set the city apart from other places in Sicily. We knew the history behind the Arabic style churches built by Frederick II, and we could taste the differences in the cuisine. Subtle features of the city that would have gone right over my head a few months ago jumped out at me.

But the most interesting thing I learned from the trip to Palermo was how much I had come to feel at home in Catania. Even after eight weeks, I have started to feel genuine pride for the city. I seldom leave the Residence without running into

an Italian friend on the street, and we have even gotten to kno

w the owners of all our favorite restaurants and bars.

Although I probably won’t be able to make it through customs with obscene amounts of wine and cheese, there are things about Catania and Sicily that will stay with me forever.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Healing Properties of Sicily

Written by Nina Hersher, Student, CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania.

On Friday July 8th I took a day trip to the beautiful city of Siracusa with a small group of friends, where we visited the historic part of the city known as Ortigia. On our way to this gorgeous place of antiquity, we passed a market filled with meat, fresh fruit, and, my favorite, massive blocks of cheese. The breads, spreads, and aromas of fresh fish and cured meat wafted through the air making me feel as if I could always be hungry!

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

In Food, There Is Music

Written by Marino Anthony Pawlowski, Student, CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania.

Ever since I told my friends that I would be studying abroad in Italy this summer, it became a running joke that I would return home with a second suitcase. Filled not with the latest Italian fashions, but with the coffee, pasta, sweets and spices that even an enthusiastic foodie like myself can’t always find in the States. More important than that extra suitcase, I wanted to come home with new cooking abilities. I imagined myself making my friends all of my favorite Italian dishes from scratch with authentic ingredients.

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

Coming of Age on Mt. Etna

Written by Sam D'Anna, Student, CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania.

Where were you on your 21st birthday? Most Americans can answer this question without having to think for more than a second. I most certainly will be able to do the same in years to come. I doubt most people can say they had the privilege of spending their 21st on top of Mt. Etna, Europe’s most active volcano (the second most active in the world).

Guided by our charismatic and knowledgeable volcanologist Sandro Privitera, we hiked around the north face of Etna at around 3,000 feet for the entire afternoon. The temperature was fair and the sky clear.

It sounds crazy, but the only thing I wanted more was for an eruption to occur. Most people would think this an absurd thing to wish for on your 21st birthday, especially if you’re standing atop an active volcano like Mt. Etna.

“What do we do if there is an eruption,” our professoressa, the one and only Paola Servino asked Sandro. He assured us that if an eruption occurred, there would be plenty of time to descend to safer ground, unless it was of unusual magnitude. Sure enough within a half hour of our conversation, Mt. Etna erupted. Twice.

We couldn’t see lava nor could we feel the ground tremble, but we could see the smoke billowing from the top crater. It was a spectacle that will be impossible to forget. My first birthday wish fulfilled on the day of my birthday! I’m still waiting on the others, but I’m confident they are on the way. One must always be patient in Sicily.

As the day winded down and the time came to return to Catania, I felt tired, sun burnt, and proud of having done something different than the norm on my 21st. Of course, when the night came, I didn’t exactly “tuck-in” early.

After enjoying a lovely dinner of fresh calamari with my roommates, we decided to head to the town center, or the centro of Catania. As I was prancing around Piazza Università in my suit and the fake plastic crown that my roommates forced me to wear, Sicilians stares and point at me. I was easily recognized as just another American. However, I couldn’t have felt more at home on my birthday amongst my Sicilian and American friends here in Catania.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Volunteership and Language Learning

Written by Lucas Gelwarg, Student, CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania.

I wanted to improve my Italian language skills outside of my classes, so my Resident Director introduced me to Rosalba Rasà who is the owner and manager of a daycare center in Catania. Rosalba asked me if I would like to volunteer to help out with the children’s summer program—and I said yes!

For my first outing with the group we went to the beach. Before we went swimming, we sang and danced to some music. The children loved the YMCA song, but unfortunately I did not know all the lyrics. I had brought a meat sandwich to the beach and the children all thought it was funny that I would eat such a heavy food in the morning.

All the kids put on their swimmies and we went into the water. The water was so refreshing, at least for someone who is used to going to the beach in Maine. I jumped right in, but the water was too cold for some of the other kids. Marco, a thirteen-year-old who also helps out, wanted to race me to the buoy, and we had a little race for fun.

After everyone got out of the water, Marco asked me to help him get a sea urchin to show to the kids. While everyone else was drying off, we dived down and found one. We brought it over to the area where people were drying off, and everyone was so amazed by this curious creature. The teacher started explaining what it was to the kids. After everyone was dried off, we all got ice cream from the refreshment stand and enjoyed the rays of the sun. At around one o’clock, we went back to the daycare and watched Toy Story. I loved practicing my Italian with bambini—I can’t wait to return!