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Sicilia--The Journey

15 March 2010
  I got bit by the Italian bug in 1995 when I received my orders from Navy command, that stated that I had to report to Naval Air Station, Sigonella, Sicily. I was very excited and couldn't wait for a new adventure. All my life I had wanted to go to Europe. Originally, my desire was to be in France but Italy would do. I didn't know much about the country except Roman history and the mafia (Godfather anyone) that was practically nil, thanks to the American school system.

When I arrived in Catania after a 22 hour flight, the sounds and smells assailed my senses. I will be honest it was like been thrown back into the 1940s. The construction equipment was 40 years outdated and at the time Sicily was considered third world. At first I didn't like it. I was staying in a hotel where the pillows were so hard I couldn't sleep, the maids didn't wear deodorant and left my room smelling worse then when they walked in, I didn't understand the language and communication was difficult, everything shut down for 4 hours midday and closed by 8pm--so no more midnight runs. Let's just say I was a miserable American.

But then I decided, I could be miserable or I can get to know the place, the culture, etc. I had become friends with the desk girl at Sigonella Inn, the hotel I had to stay in for 10 days until I had a room in the barracks. She taught me a few things in Italian and brought me along to meet her friends. We traveled together to the mainland where I fell in love with Florence. I met beautiful Sicilian men who cooked amazing cuisine--I'll never forget Andrea. Another Sicilian friend of mine's aunt made me Thanksgiving dinner--ok dinner is an under-statement it was more like a feast-- a holiday that they don't even celebrate. I was accosted on the beach in Taormina by Sicilian teens who heard me playing Coolio. They were my age and so enthusiastic about rap music--I was 19. Somewhere along the way, I became Sicilian. I fell in love with the different odors, sounds, and way of communicating--Italians can have a whole conversation with their hands. The people were so kind, so generous and affable. It was a fairytale land for me. And when I left two years later, I was sadden but vowed that one day I would return. I am still friends with the two Sicilian women--cuz they were 8 and 12 years older than me--til this day. We lost contact and reconnected 8 years later and they still want to see me.

I am excited that I have made the decision to go study in Italy for a few years. I love the culture, the people, the history and the lifestyle. I hope that one day I will be able to teach that to American students. Its not that things are better its that things are different and for me they fit my persona better there. Everything was about family and friends. The 4 hour break in the day was called riposo, it gave the Sicilians time to spend with their family and friends and rest during the day, which contributed to their longer and healthier lives.

I miss Sicily and I know I will return during this time and I am sure since I am older, wiser, more worldly and more mature that my experience will be different, better in fact. Italy is in my blood, I mean I have a shoe fetish and its a country shaped like a boot. I have always had this obsession about the Roman society and the Mafia culture. I received my first bachelor's degree in Fashion Merchandising and let's face it, the Italians trump everyone when it comes to fashion, art and yes FOOODDD!!

I look forward to this journey. This new adventure will be the cornerstone of my life, I suspect. And I am sure I will return with a different attitude and take on life. Maybe it will help me understand the world and my role in it better. Or perhaps it will help ease that feeling of not belonging in the current society I live in. Whatever the case, I am excited and I refuse to let anything get in the way of the move. I am looking forward to sharing the experience of preparing and moving with you all. I will keep you guys posted.

Tanisha
Love Theme from the Godfather