Sicilia 14: the hottest year of my life

I am quite certain that there will not be another year like this – in all of its aspects. I will not move to a country with 6 months of burning hot summer, nor will I leave my own nation so soon after this project has reached its end. But most of all, I might as well face the truth and say that I will not have so much unattended time on my hands ever again. Life might prove me wrong, but this is the picture that slowly converts itself from b&w to colors in my mind.

Recent unfortunate events (that prevents me from using Lenovo any longer) have proven to be aptly and have driven me into the direction of books. Books and peacefulness in the shade of almighty Sicily. And our apartment that used to be cursed due to its cave-like properties during colder months now is being praised for the exact same characteristics that prevent the heat from creeping up on us.
So now it serves as a sanctuary.

You might say that I should be out there – enjoying the last three months, meeting people, going to the beach or something (anyone who knows me would laugh a bit here…not for no reason I’ve still kept my skin color), but let me share a story we heard.
It is about the smart Sicilians – most of them, just like any other person who, like myself, values their own well-being, don’t unnecessarily leave the house while the sun is shooting burning beams and playing “tag” with us… they use the morning and the evening. And I am determined to do the same – even if it turns me into a night creature. The habit of going swimming after 7 p.m. on weekends and going for walks after 10 p.m every day has already been implanted, and that means that the most productive hours are not the sunlight hours anymore. A shame, I know, but that is the reality. I even coughed myself taking a 2-hour nap the other day – and I never take naps unless I’m seriously ill or been traveling for weeks.

My Mandala course has gone out of hand – in theory, it ended in the midst of June since I had nothing to teach my students anymore, but in practice, we are having a “Mandala drawing club” now and then. (every day for me) Although a different title would be favorable since you would face unavoidable bits of advice on drawing, personal life, health, relationships etc. given from one to the other. A free psychotherapy course, perhaps? Mandala therapy.

While my family and friends were traveling around the Baltics/ Europe/Latvia and sending pictures every second day, I was dealing with some challenges from which the major one was resisting the urge to plan August and September before knowing the dates of a potential mid-term training. (Since I had to pass down two invitations already due to trips or friends coming over.)

Nevertheless, my feet won’t stay still and the heart is restless, so I fell in love with two cities in the past month.
The first city where I left a piece of my heart was Bilbao, but let’s start from the beginning.

In the midst of June, I finally managed to visit Majka in the North of Spain. “Welcome to the city of rich & old people,” she said while showing me around Santander. And indeed it wasn’t the new generation that ruled the streets, but its beauty was unmistakable. Wide streets, functioning transport, clean beaches – a LOT of beaches –, mountains for the eye to linger and buildings that reminded me of Bad Ischl. There was nothing Spanish about that town – not the surroundings, not the polite, low-speaking people (and the other cities of north were not particularly Spanish either…as I got to know in the following days). The north in my perspective is like Austria where people for some reason speak Spanish. So I made a mental note to return to Spain and go south from Cantabria.


On day two a bit of Scotland came into the picture, breaking the expectations even further. But I was astonished by the beauty, and thankful for the clouds. So we walked to see the playa(-s), talked to see how different we’ve grown since the last time we saw each other – more than a year ago, when Hojskoole ended.

On day three I learned to love the freedom of exploring a city on my own – with no company to count on, with only my own wishes and ideas, does and don’ts, speed limit and preferences. And I guess that is what added to the Bilbao experience, accompanied by the majestic beauty – from the small streets of Historical Center to Guggenheim and a market that looks like an art gallery. Green, spacious and alive – that’s as much as you will get from me, since there might not be a particular location, address that changed my mind, but just a general, unexplainable feeling.

And then came Palermo. With my whole heart I wanted to stand on the side of Catania in this shadow war between inhabitants of the two biggest cities of Sicily, but I guess the main thing that won me over was the majestic trees – trees in the middle of the city, huge parks, a river, the closeness of nature.

I am not saying that Acireale (or Catania) is far from nature…with their sea coast, parks in Catania and a natural reserve stretching for kilometers in both directions in Acireale…but the integration of Green in the streets is not so present, or maybe Palermo reminded me more of Riga and the hint of familiarity drove me undoubtedly into “team Palermo”.


Sicily is treating us well. Besides the continuous summer it’s as Italian as it can be: loud mornings in the market, silent midday sauna, when the sun reaches the peak; a craving for a granita or gelato all day – every day; people hiding in their houses, teenagers baking on the lava stone rocks; a celebration of a Saint every second week or so; a Festa of no particular origin – almost every week. I would be avoiding Acireale if I owned a car since there is no algorithm that shows how often and for what particular reason the main street will be closed. But a small sense of satisfaction creeps into the hearts of pedestrians when once again the big street is closed and dedicated jut to us.

Our cultural center is slowly turning into an oven – a dark one since the unwritten rule implies No sunlight indoors unless you want to create a sauna…so we leave the shutters closed till 19 or so, try to create air movement and walk around barefooted to receive some remedy from the cold tiles.

+30 is a norm (in the shadow, I mean), and then you can get hotter days, windy days, cloudy day – once per month and a hope for a rainy day that never arrives… I miss thunderstorms and a weather that changes, cold winds, rainbows and rain boots, grandmother’s garden and picking berries in the forest. And it is quite possible that I will be lamenting next year around this time when all that the Latvian summer will be able to offer would be +17 at the end of June. Nevertheless…I miss my country, even though the sadness might be explained by the upcoming birthday that for some reason has always been more of a burden than a feast.
But I guess the grass always seems greener on the other side, and the force of accustomedness is a nasty one. You can get used to uniqueness, beauty, comfort, discomfort, to anything, really. And I have gotten used to Sicily.


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