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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Settled In At Last...

My apologies to all our family and friends.  It's been a long three months, packing out, saying goodbye, traveling south to Portland to spend some time with family, then onto the east coast to see our wonderful friends the Wilson's for a week and then traveling to Sigonella, Italy.  We arrived on July 20th after about 16 hours of time in terminals and on airplanes.  I was mildly surprised that the flight from Norfolk to Rota, Spain (which is straight through) was only 6 hours.  The flight attendants were wonderful and made traveling pretty simple except that Kyle and I struggled to sleep.  We stopped in Rota for a couple of hours and then hopped on the two hour flight to Sigonella.  It was ovewhelming because the terminal is tiny and most of the flight which was moving onto Bahrain emptied at Sigonella, so lots of people, very hot and every officer in the command was there to say hello and help us get to temporary housing with our 8 pieces of large luggage.  Thanks to the Kastrup family who offered all kinds of information and advice to prepare for our move and had food in our refer in temp housing so we didn't have to shop immediately and thanks to the Gardipee family for loaning a car and movies from their collection since the 20 we brought were not enough!

Hmmm, quick observations in the first 48 hours...jet lag doesn't catch up until a night or two later, there is bamboo and cactus growing in the same climate, it's very hot (haven't sweat this much in years!), there are lizards everywhere, it's like the desert but there are citrus trees and vineyards everywhere, kind of like the San Joaquin valley, thought we were going to die the first time we drove into Motta and got lost ending up somewhere in Catania!  Thank goodness for navigation's, but they only work if you have GPS coordinates, there are not street address' for the most part.  On base most everybody you work with is Italian, so you learn the basic words pretty quickly and nothing is fast unless they are behind the wheel of a car. 

Hmmm, then we took a tour to Palermo, very interesting and got a good view of the middle of Sicily.  Saw some churches built as early at the 1500's with Baroque influence.  Skinny, skinny streets where cars barely fit down, beautiful beaches.  We participated in the National Night Out on base, Kyle got to handle some real baretta's, Brooke rode one of the horses with the Polizia...yes, they are all hot!  We've traveled just a little bit since Italy pretty much goes on vacation in August.  It's very hot and so not a lot of people do anything and it's hot all over the country, so we kind of hid out and enjoyed the A/C in our new house.  No household goods until September 16th so not a lot to do.  We met some neighbors and kids made some friends before school started the last week of August.  Soccer on base started at that point, so we've been pretty tied down.  Thankfully, they keep the seasons short so that people can travel.  Kyle will start soccer in town the middle of October.

We took the ICR class on base (Inter-Cultural Relations).  What did we learn...a brief synopsis, Italians live for style, no matter where they go or what they do, comfort is NOT a consideration even if it kills their feet, it's about image.  I've seen ladies shopping at the local markets, walking in the dirt and on the pier to go boating for the day in 3 inch heels.  They are always made up and hair done.  Americans = logical, Italians = fashionable when it comes to dress.  They very rarely wear shorts, do wear some capris but mostly long pants, no flip flops except on the beaches and nothing lose, even with the men.  They never wear 1 piece bathing suits or trunks no matter their build or weight.

They are unusually healthy and I think have a much lower obesity rate than the US especially the younger people and yet I would say the percentage of people who smoke is way higher and they smoke everywhere.  But while their eating habits would seem odd and perhaps not the healthiest in some ways, they do eat very healthy.  Light breakfast with probably more sugar than any other part of the day, so they burn it off.  Pizza or calzone etc for lunch (not nearly as much bread and it's homemade) and a large dinner that is late, but made with the freshest veggies, not fruits at dinner, a serving of salad, antipasti, main course (meat or seafood) and a light desert and eaten over almost a couple of hours.  They don't use sauces...they think American's are crazy because we smother our food with sauces; katsup, mustard, marinades, bar-b-que sauces etc.  They only use olive oil, lemon or a vinegarette of some kind.  They believe American's can't even taste their meat.  The meat is healthier here and they eat a lot of octopus and horse.  An American girl told me the other day that she can't stand the chickens here which are much smaller than ours in the states because they are too gamey!  Really...maybe that's a good thing honey!  LOL

Italians are very animated when they speak, they don't smile if they don't know you, but kiss on each cheek if they do and it doesn't matter what gender you are.  They will stare especially in small towns where they know you are a stranger, it's not rude.  They live for the moment.  When they gather as a family, it doesn't matter if they are up drinking wine until 1 am even if they have school or work the next day, it's about right now.  Riposo does happen most everywhere, they shut down by 1 every afternoon and may be up and running again by 5 pm.  So dinner is easily 8 pm.  Summer breakfast tradition, Granita (frozen Italian ice) and Brioche (slightly sweet Italian bread role).  Yum, yum...I could totally eat that for breakfast every morning instead of toast, cereal or eggs.   This is actually a Sicilian tradition more than Italian and yes, Sicilians do not like to be called Italians.

Every town has a sort of logo, for example the elephant in Catania.  There are stories to go along with that.  Sicily has Arabic, Roman, Greek influence among others.  It's been conquered and ruled by many nations over thousands of years so no matter where you go you will find, ruins, churches, coliseums, castles etc.  It's full of rich history.  We would like to see the catacombs in Palermo next time we go.

Their pottery style ranges from town to town and it's the best you will find.  I cook with the pottery I've picked up so far even in the oven.  Pottery is the thing to get and I'm already developing a collection of my own.

Every town has a dialect that is distinctly different to them.  Sicilians are very touchy feely when they communicate and often appear to be upset or argumentative when they speak, but in fact it's just the animation in their conversation.  They say you'll never see a fight but rather they put a hand behind their back and walk away if they truly disagree and can't come to a resolution; unless it's about soccer, then all hell breaks lose!  Honking on the roads; it's usually more of a warning sound than an agressive action like in the states, you don't think much of it after awhile.  While they are an extremely relaxed, laid back society who thinks nothing of waiting, doesn't believe in lines, or laws for driving, once they are behind the wheel of a car, they dive like their lives depend on it and it's the end of the world.  There are very few stop signs and they don't stop, mostly driving circles which we've grown pretty comfortable with.  

So far since we've been here, we've graduation from nearly stroking out on the downtown streets to being moderately calm and patient, we do still dress more casually that Italians, however, we do step it up a bit so as not to totally look like Americans.  It's okay in the market to bump people and be right next to them...you have to push your way to the front and be used to the fact that even in an organized line if an elderly person walks in the room the customer service will divert to that person no matter how long you've been there.  If you try to use some Italian words, they will politely correct you if you are pronouncing incorrectly, but they love that you try.   

The roads are horrible here, especially the back roads, they fill with a lava type material that disappears as soon as it rains!  Huge potholes and with just three months here and we just learned that both rims on the right side of our American car are dented, so now Kevin takes it to work and I drive our Italian car everywhere!  Kevin's work isn't even a mile from home.  We are living on base which is good for the kids.  It's also easier, contracts in town with Italians can be very sticky and not always a good situation.  We live on the same block with lots of kids that are Kyle and Brooke's age, they are all great kids and great families.

I'm going back to school and trying to finish my Coding certification so I can do some work remotely from home.  We hope to use that extra cash to pay for travel.

We finally did some geocaching today at Mt. Etna and got some great pictures and found the geocach which was a tough one.  We got our household goods a few weeks ago, so we finally feel like we're home, we're going to travel probably to Syracuse on Monday since it's a holiday and Kevin and I leave for Malta on Thursday for our 20th anniversary trip!  The following weekend Kyle and I are taking advantage of an opportunity to travel north with Lisa and Camryn to Naples and see our friends the Rivers.  We plan on seeing Pompeii while we're there.  Kevin and Brooke are staying home and taking an ITT tour to Mt. Etna to pick wild chestnuts and bar-b-que.  We've also booked our tickets to travel to Stuttgart, Germany to see our friends the Tornga's for Thanksgiving and hope, while we are there, to see Munich and Nuremberg.

Things are great, some frustrating moments with Kyle and school but I think it will work itself out.  Being a stay at home mom has been a bit of a struggle, it's hard to stay on a routine, but I do love it.  I'm taking the monthly Italian cooking classes at local restaurants, a member of the PTSO for the middle high school and the PTO for the elementary school.  I'm also involved in the AOSC and hoping to get back on track for the crocheting and quilting.  I go to the Motta market every Wednesday and the Scordia market every Friday to get fresh veggies and fruits which I love.  I've never had a bowl that sits out in my kitchen with fruit because we eat it that fast! 

I attached some pictures, one of the "Do Not Feed the Cats" signs.  A great photo of Mt. Etna erupting amongst the clouds, the school on base, a baroque church in Palermo, Brooke and Kyle at National Night Out, some of the fruit I got from the market, so soccer photos and the kids lost in packing paper!










Now that I think I'm caught up, I will try to get on here once a week and catch you all up with what's happening around Sicily.  I'll post pictures often.  Take care all.  More to follow!

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