Sicilia 11: when Etna feels like Lava

There is something magical about freshly washed hair and a cup of coffee – enjoyed while sitting on the roof terrace in March. The spring is definitely here and I cannot help but think about how it will be to return in October… When the weather conditions in Latvia will have reached a level Sicilians would call wintertime.
The North-South contrast, even if not so traceable in midseason, provides a shock, and it takes a couple of days to shake it off. And while this thought of contrasts still lingers in our minds, here is another curiosity of life – Enrico, the Sicilian me and Nanna befriended when visiting Rome last spring is now exploring Riga this weekend while I – the Latvian – am thinking out loud about getting accustomed to the life in Sicily.

I wonder, when was the moment when I stopped referring to Acireale as a temporary residency and started calling it home… when was the moment when the unusual became average and new impressions were harder and harder to find so that the urge to travel reappeared more often. I wonder how it would be to see it all again through the eyes of a newcomer… And because of this “settled down” feeling we reached another unsteady thought that pushed its way through the daily observations – if we have no guests in March and if no trips are planned then this might be the perfect time to book a weekend trip to Malta. Little did we know that another trip was on the way…

Last week an email regarding me and Anikó was received; it was an invitation to participate in on-arrival training, and, yes, you read it correctly – On-Arrival – a formation you get to participate in a couple of weeks after arriving in the project location. I know, I know Italians love to be late and I have gotten used to it, but this was just ridiculous and we were hoping that the sudden announcement wouldn’t come while we are hosting friends or going on a home visit ourselves. Today I can officially say that I arrived 5 months ago and soon an invitation to Midterm training should fall into our mailbox, but anyway – since it didn’t interfere with anything…it just made our March amazing! So on Tuesday we are taking the night train to Nola (a town near Naples) to spend a week with other EVS volunteers, come back on Wednesday the 15th just in time for me to launch the Mandala Course on Thursday evening (that I am terrified to do) and re-pack for Malta. This is, of course, if everything goes as planned, if Etna behaves and the smoke doesn’t overcloud the sky… But you can never know if this Lady volcano will feel like lava or not. This week has been extra hot up there.

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This Sunday Mistero Buffo is organizing an Indian night – Bollywood, Indian food, henna, mandalas, lanterns, a presentation etc., etc. …but it might turn out that the most Indian person attending the event will be me – with the strange pants, love for henna and a mandala course on the way. This might be a funny picture since I am definitely the most pail person to walk the streets of Acireale, Christian in my beliefs and, well, never even been to India. A traitorous feeling, isn’t it? But I do hope that it will turn out to be truly Indian though.

A lot has happened in these past weeks. Our apartment has experienced tree guests, Pino’s apartment – five more. Mostly Hungarians though, but that is an insignificant detail – “Mi casa es su casa”, right?
Anyway I had the chance to experience on my skin the post-guest hangover, but I think that Anikó hasn’t seen it yet, jumping from one friend to another, or maybe she’s just really good at hosting people.

Here’s a definition of a post-friend hangover – you obviously feel sad when they leave, because a part of your previous life is put into your present world, and it messes with your mind… but then again – you feel relief for not having to be ready to re-visit your present surroundings every day, and there is no personal obligation to (not) spend the whole day in bed. Do you follow?
The place where the mattress of your guest used to be feels oddly empty, but the room is suddenly spacious and full of liberating silence. And most of all there is a certain cloudiness…a filter that has been put on your glasses and it makes you feel alienated from the world – but it might just be this particular experience I had, the extreme contrasts I saw, when Nanna was visiting.

February 16: “Yesterday we discovered that we do not really know that much about each other. We do not know what movies the other likes; we do not know what music the other listens to; all we know is art, food and life philosophy – and I guess that is enough to develop a friendship. Nevertheless we do share a peculiar similarity that only friends can achieve and when traveling we happen to share a similar, unusual checklist.” And our checklist was strange indeed.

A sense of slowly flowing ships would describe the feeling that you get when two dreamy-minded people decide to explore places. We had mornings that lasted for hours, a day-plan with just one aim – to be outside as much as possible; and the travel list for these 4 and a half days ended up being very short: 1 city (Catania) one half of a city (Ortiga in Siracusa) and one small town with an extended sea village (Acireale and Santa Maria La Scala) – all of this a sharp traveler who tries to see as much as possible would consider a waste of time, and a culture-oriented traveler would judge us for not visiting a single museum. But exactly this floatiness that I loved so much made returning to reality quite hard.

One thing is for sure – I have learned to love siesta, and more vividly it showed during the carnival, when for one and a half weeks Acireale was the center of the party. A carnival is the Roman Catholic way of letting off steam before 40 days of  lent – marking the time till Easter, so there were always people on the two main streets, music playing on the speakers throughout the town and confetti – confetti everywhere! But for my surprise, again, siesta is something that has rooted deep in the characteristics of an Italian – willingly or not around 13 the streets cleared out and a breeze of fresh air blew through the town. Almost everyone except for the tourists sought refuge in their homes when the siesta hit –to rest, to eat, to fix the costume… so that they could return to the feast in the evening. And now I am sure – siesta is definitely not just a heat thing. It’s a national value, at least here, in Sicily. And seeing our town like this – peaceful and calm – even during one of the busiest weeks of the year gave the sensation of hope and relief.
While walking through the streets of rain-glued confetti, covered masquerade stands and brightly illuminated candy stands and listening to a musician doing a sound-check in the empty Dome Square, I decided that I will miss this.

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