There are a few things that are considered almost sinful in Italy: drinking cappuccino after lunchtime, putting tiramisu and chips on the same plate and mixing tastes in general. Even ordering a lemon-chocolate granitta is not allowed by the waiter at a cafeteria – it doesn’t matter that you would prefer this combination, they will just wait until you change your order. Also for more than a week I thought that there must be something wrong, because nobody, seriously, nobody shared my love for tea. And this general (none existing) habit reflects on the stores, where my usually favorite section of different tastes and varieties of tea is unacceptably small and skimpy, and respectively – not very cheep.
Last Friday we had the chance to visit Catania. We participated in an event called Territori Invisibili where Mariaelena took part in this round-table discussion and we (me and Vera) played a few songs.
I can’t believe I had to come this far to say Yes to a participation in a small gig – a few songs, a few covers and one original peace, but still. What is different about this country? I dwelled on the thought for a few days and discovered that nothing, really. Just the fact that back home I have so many talented people around me, that playing and singing is just a natural, non-extraordinary state of being. Not without a reason we are called “the singing nation”. So being here, looking like I do, singing like I do is considered unusual, and this feels bizarre.
It’s the same with appearances. I noticed this in Denmark, and now I see it repeating – I would never dress the way I do now, when at home. But here – It’s like I don’t really care that much and it liberates the imagination. Strange color combinations, wavy outfits and patterns! Patterns everywhere! I’m like a walking fashion explosion, but I love it.
As you might have seen from the pictures, we visited Etna this Sunday. And it was a lot farther than I thought before coming to Sicily. But don’t get me wrong – we drove the whole way up, there was almost no climbing.
The clouds embraced us and we were nearly halfway to heaven, the wind stubbornly tried to blow us off the top of the craters, and then I turned around and saw an amusing image that proved that we are still attached to the ground – Vera… fighting with the wind…trying to light her cigarette.
Nevertheless I would not say that this was a breathtaking, once-in-a-lifetime view. The surroundings looked like a battle field…or like a beautiful landscape after a nuclear explosion. Trees continued their lives, but not near the craters, dust and ashes were everywhere and the only living thing that I saw was a small ladybug on my bag.
But the way we see things depends on the mood, just as the way we capture images depends on the way we see it, and it was a Sunday.
As strange as it might sound, I feel the distance mostly on Sundays – I feel every kilometer that separates me from the people I love – both at home and abroad, and it brings the familiar urge for lonesomeness.
Solitude – the wonder of regeneration for introverts. But as easy it was to disappear in the shades of forests in Denmark, as hard it is to find a green sanctuary – silent from the inside and out (that would be approachable without hiking there and back) here, in Italy. Even though this is a very green country with plants that seem almost plastic, even if they are not – it’s just the tropical climate that prepares them for the worst. But for some reason I haven’t found this sanctuary yet.
And it will take some time to get used to the noise and southern temper, the always present vibrant energy that either charges you or sucks out the last drop of your well-kept emotional strength.
But while talking about Sundays, there is one discovery that surprised me. During last week in Acireale there were “Youth with a mission” kind of events and for some days they ended the meetings in the local church with a brief gathering – songs and words/ actions of santification – a catholic thing that I do not fully understand. So after leaving Mistero Buffo one night we wondered into one of these closing services, and I heard a familiar melody. In a few seconds I understood that the monks and nuns are leading worship and singing a song by Hillsong – “Mighty to Save”. I guess there is no huge difference in how we worship God – as long as you are truthful.
Last week for the first time in my life I actually felt a little bit bad for not being able to speak more than 2 languages, even though I somewhat understand at least two more. But the ironic part about this is that during the multicultural event I ended up speaking not English, nor Italian, but Russian. And by speaking I mean mostly listening to the stories Renato and others wanted to share… and repeating the same 20 words I know – in different combinations and mixed with a little bit of English.
With this said I have to add that the question that hides behind the never-ending “I know you’re a foreigner” stares on the streets is finally answered – I will never fully fit in. I do not look like an Italian – at all! And Sicilian people for a self-known reason tend to think that I am Russian, because tall (not that I’m very tall in Latvia), pale, brown-haired people apparently all come from Russia, and having us here is an oddity.
Yes, I said “us”, because trying to convince someone that you (or I) have nothing to do with this big nation and meanwhile understanding the language and sharing some traditions would be unfair and untrue. We are neighbors and we share history.
And this weekend I had the chance to meet some other neighbors of ours – an Estonian guy and a Polish guy. And I have heard rumors that there is another EVS in Catania, who comes from Lithuania. So the whole Baltic’s are represented here in the East of Sicily. Such a strange coincidence.
To conclude this entry that ended up being longer than I wished for, I have to say that we are lucky to be based in Acireale. Even though sometimes I miss the urban fuss, Acireale is not a small town – not in a sense we would describe a small town, it is full of life, but has the potential and ability to calm down, when it’s needed.