I arrived into Catania tired, exhausted, slightly feverish, congested, and on a plane full of Sicilians, speaking a much quicker italian language than I was used too. Needless to say I was overwhelmed and a little stretched, but I was here, I had landed!
Unfortunately, my luggage was left behind in JFK. Maybe this was a good thing? Starting over in Sicilia with a clean slate? I found three of my new friends awaiting me outside arrivals and we got a little snack and water, tried to straighten out where my luggage was and when it would arrive…in Italia you really have to just let go and trust the timing of things here. So it will get here when it gets here.
The drive to Case Vecchie (Anna Tasca Lanza School) was idyllic. The recent deluge of snow and rain has left the landscape a saturated one, allowing the brilliance of the greens to come forth even more in juxtaposition to the muddy earth colors. And the atmosphere was a watercolorist dream come true- overcast, misty, cloudy, and full of life.
The landscape immediately took me back to memories of the Pacific Northwest, and missing my most recent stomping grounds of Bellingham in Whatcom County, and also to my days hiking the hills of southern California researching birds…the land, the hills, the early spring greens speak of transformation, changes, and growth! I love it. This land was quickly inviting me to relax and feel at home.
In addition, the agricultural lifestyle was pulling and pulling on my heartstrings in so many ways. For me the land, animals, and farming bring a sense of peace and security to me. I am both romantic and practical when it comes to this, so please don’t take me for a fool! I know it is hard work, but I also know the rewards. So to be able to be so close to the land here is like heaven, and to be able to see, hear, smell, and touch the livestock is icing on the cake. I am not a fan of traffic, but a sheep traffic jam I am OK with that!
We made a quick stop at Case Vecchie, and to stand in the archway of the courtyard was a dream come true for me…like a tired and weary warrior returning home from battle. I have seen so many photographs and postings of this welcoming courtyard, but to stand in it for my first time was overwhelming, in a good way!
Then we ventured off to the nearby town of Valledolmo- a small, beautiful commune set on a hillside, holding its population of 3000 or so in its’ gentle protection. Though I have only been here for one day, Valledolmo is wonderful…it has welcomed us 12 foreigners and done wonders to make us feel at home, and in particular my new host family.
I feel so honored and privileged to be able to stay in a home with such loving and kind people (which is pretty much true for everyone I have met so far at Case Vecchie and in Valledolmo). My host parents are truly Sicilian and are being so gracious in their striving to understand me in my broken Italian; I told the father this morning just give me time, it will improve, and he smiled knowingly!
We had simple a lunch of pasta and broth, then potatoes and sausage, some salad, handmade pastries, and then some fruit; and after that I began to settle in and got in a very quick nap. I awoke refreshed, my ear finally popped open and I could finally hear fully. We gathered at the convent where the other 10 students or so are staying for a welcoming dinner…however, they were late coming in and luggage was lost for some, so we decided to have two seatings. It was so nice to gather around the table and begin to get acquainted with my fellow peers. I love meeting new folks and getting to know what makes them tick inside, their passions, and dreams. And in this small setting in a far corner of the world, we are so similar in so many ways, and yet so different in the paths that have brought us here. I look forward to seeing how we continue to merge together into one over these coming 10 weeks.
After dinner I excused myself from the welcoming party and retired to my room and slept for 12 hours straight…a feat that I have not accomplished in a very long time (I think Kelly would be very proud of me for this). And thus the beginning has begun, we have all arrived, our luggage will too, and the journey begins!