This goes to Magnus, who kindly pointed out a pattern I have been following unwillingly – a pattern of procrastination and eventual surrender. It happens every time when I dive into the universe of “unusual”…and the extraordinary becomes average, beauty is taken for granted and one starts to believe that this is how it has been for years, even though it has been just a few months abroad. Good thing that Christmas is almost here to give a bit of an electrical shock and freshen up the memory.
For years I have been thinking how would it be to spend this time in a different environment, having responsibilities of another kind – for starters having the liberty to choose how the 24th of December will be spent. Don’t get me wrong, I love the yearly oratorios at our church, but for 10 years having the day fully packed with 3 services in a row made changes in scenario almost impossible. So each and every year I knew exactly when and where I am supposed to be – I knew that after the 3rd service I would go home with a slight delay, since it is unavoidable to leave without hugging everyone. The Christmas Eve meal would be on the table, the room – accurately decorated, and it all would be done by my mom and brother, without me helping in any way. I used to wonder how would it be to switch places with one of them, and after a day of preparation go to church and come back home to celebrate with the family. There used to be a time when all three of us took part in the oratorios. Oh, what a time it was! But this year it would be fair to say that my wish came true in a very radical and unexpected way, so even now – a week before Christmas – I have no clue what our plans will be.
A week has passed since we returned from Rome. We were supposed to leave just for a day, but it ended up becoming a four day trip due to some expected and unexpected changes – a delayed flight that prolonged our trip by a day, and a wish to discover Rome once more instead of just going to an EVS meeting.
I have to say – traveling with another person can have two scenarios – one, that you close the whole world out, two – that you let everybody in. So traveling with Aniko meant meeting up with a movie director and being invited to a press conference/ film premiere; getting to know an Italian workaway enthusiast on his way to Mexico, where many years ago he discovered essential oils and has almost dedicated his life to it; walking miles and miles… or taking the metro every day like it’s no big deal (though it is – we, Latvians, do not have an underground train), inviting ourselves into a Sicilian restaurant that was closed and getting to know the owners because of that (a guy from Germany and another guy who happens to be from Acireale), and much more…
Meanwhile our little Acireale experienced a makeover…so we woke up in an improvised Christmas atmosphere – light chains between houses, music on the streets, grass on the asphalt, flowers planted on the grass and spruce trees! Spruce trees, who would love to become Christmas trees one day, therefore are willingly placed in the middle of a Christmas market.
But they will not full me – it isn’t a Christmas market without Mulled wine, and even the artificial Jesus is missing from his cradle. People here might have a point saying that he hasn’t been born yet, but Maria and Joseph look a bit concerned though.
For us – people who come from Northern countries (let’s call it that – the countries with snow), the South is one big Summer all year long, and even if there is proof that the winter here exists, we would not believe it completely. After explaining this to Nanna, she said: ok, so I might bring a sweater, when I come in February. Yes, and a coat would be smart as well. I had the same idea before leaving to Sicily – good thing that common sense kicked in.
Winter in Italy means no heating system. Imagine autumn or spring without heating – that is the exact feeling of winter here. We do have a thing called la stufa here – a huge heater working on gas. But, well, it’s gas.
The landscape overall does not change though. Whenever there’s sun – a new season is introduced. Pino, the landlord told us about this phenomenon that the Sun changes everything, and it truly does. And whenever snow is mentioned, Sicilians tend to answer with: “There is snow on Etna as well.” (Makes me smirk every time.)
Not that it changes anything for a person who isn’t used to living next to a hill, not to mention a mountain or even a volcano – in my imagination there will always be snow at the top.