Sicilia o3 : fifty shades of pancakes – the cultural incompatibility

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Stazzo – the home of Vera

Here, almost at the heart of Acireale, where our humble flat is located, a day doesn’t pass by without un caffè made with a moka pot (or a Bialetti Moka Express, if you fancy this title). At first I was laughing that coming to Italy will imply me changing my ways and learning how to make coffee, but this seemingly ridiculous idea became a necessity after the discovery that not falling asleep at the last hours in Mistero Buffo is crucial. So one cup of what I called espresso back home and didn’t even think of ordering… not to mention making…per day is a must. And then maybe one more if we decide to go out.
And while we’re on the food topic – sorry my dear Italians, but as much as you don’t understand us, who put pineapple on pizza (it’s delicious!), I will never understand you, who prefer potatoes on yours!
Anyhow I have the feeling that this year will be dedicated to the art of cooking. And I am starting with 50 shades of gluten-free pancakes. Ironically, right before coming to Italy I got advised to switch to this diet due to some health-related body reactions. What are the odds?  Doesn’t keep me away from pizza though.

I wanted this entry to be about cultural differences that I see and experience daily, but it ended up being a mix of everything, so I will leave you with the decision to sort it in sections or not – as you wish.

One of the first and most un-ignore-able things in Italy is the native way of communication. And I knew this before coming here. It is the liveliness that accompanies every conversation, gestures that are almost like a second language – happening simultaneously with the spoken word, and their way of dealing with problems.
If making a joined decision in a group seems hard enough in Latvia, then to compromising here in Italy seems almost impossible – it will be accompanied by loud decision exchange, speeches happening on top of each other and many different arguments – connected or non-connected to the topic of discussion. But at the end everybody will say Va bene and move on to the next topic like nothing happened, while I’ll be sitting there and feeling like the ceiling just collapsed, because nobody raises their voices like that unless it’s a serious life/emotion-threatening situation.
Another almost traumatic experience was the 20th of October that apparently is a monthly thing here in Sicily – the announcement of a catholic mass that’s dedicated to St. Sebastian. It started with church bells – at first just the deep ones like we hear every hour, then the smaller ones joined and it started to sound like an emergency siren… and after that out of the blue – cannon shots! Three in a row – repeated three times. At that moment I told the girls – if something like this happened in our country, almost everyone, no doubt, would consider it as a war announcement or something similar.
“They use the fireworks as bells – to announce a particular mass. And since we are located behind the church, they shoot the bullets very near to our courtyard. That is why it is so loud.”
In Sicily it’s a way to celebrate the Saints. And the catholic church has a lot of them.

The Sunday night at Acireale (and at any Italian place, I think).
It is a unnatural phenomenon to observe – young people with or without children, middle-age people with their friends, older people with their whole families, and even elderly couples – all come out of their homes to go for a walk in the city center, to go out for dinner or a drink, to sing karaoke, to go to the mass or just to sit on a bench in the park. It is not a festival day; there is no special occasion, just the fact that it’s a day-off for almost everyone. And there seems to be no sign of promptly approaching Monday.

“If I knew this wouldn’t go away, I would have been more careful” – said nobody ever.
I have been constantly shocking my body by mentally re-experiencing the ankle-sprain situation that took place almost five months ago. And it happens every time I walk the streets of Acireale – because of the narrow and high sidewalks, and even our apartment has two-step staircase in the middle of it. So either this or something in the up-and-down streets has made my ankle ache again, constantly reminding how clumsy I can be and making the sadness of not having a place to ice skate, or a proper winter, less hurtful.
This morning I saw first pictures of snow (or more like the frost) in Latvia, then I made my tea and went up to the terrace to sit, read and enjoy the +23 degrees.
With this in mind Vera announced yesterday that the season of “not leaving the house with wet hair” has started, and last weak the season of drinking tea started (because here people drink tea more or less during wintertime). I know my fellow Latvians and Danes would understand the risibility of this. I still have my “end of summer” dress stored in the closet because it would be too hot to wear it during daytime.

A lot of you have asked me if I speak Italian already, so this is the moment where I will kindly ask you to abandon this question for a year or so, since doing anything with the pressure from others, that I can feel in my backbone, means doing less… or even rebelling against the system and shutting everything out. I felt this in Denmark, and I feel it here… the expectations from family, friends, people around. But the thing is – each of us has our own tempo, and approach. Anikó is the kind of person who has the need to learn all the time and I envy her for that. I on the contrary need to produce, otherwise I fall apart. And for this reason I am sure that she will be speaking Italian in no time (she already is). Me – probably not so soon, but I do understand more than I ever thought I would after just three weeks in Italy. I guess I should thank my Leonardo for that.

For the grand finale I just have some short thoughts to share:

Nowadays just 50 + generation with some exceptions accompany our la passeggiata with the stereotypical Ciao, bella! that we so clearly experienced in year 2008, while visiting Bergamo…or maybe I’ve just grown old and would not react with shy giggling as both of us (me and Kaiva) did, when we were sixteen.
Now people just strip you with their eyes. A huge cultural difference, you see – because it is considered rude, or an invitation to say something, or just a creepy thing to do back home, but not here. Here the eyes linger on whatever or whoever looks unusual or a bit out of the ordinary. Even children look at me strangely – not that it’s a big change though.

The kissing thing for me will always be odd… just like high-fives. Why do you need to pretend to kiss someone? – I mean in some cases people just let their cheeks touch and make a kissing sound. And why is it necessary to do it twice?  Ok, everyone knows that you first turn right (or was it left?) and then left. But in Hungary, for example, it is the other way around. At least that’s what I have been told.
A hand shake or a simple verbal Bye for acquaintances and a hug for friends are more logical and understandable for me. I feel so awkward when the greeting and leaving part comes, so for a safe escape I sometimes just smile and wave!

So here you go – a little smile, a waving hand and see you on the internet! Ciao!

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