Getting your bearings in an unfamiliar area where you don’t speak the language is definitely an interesting experience. Last night we decided to go to a local concert that is held annually in order to celebrate the coming of a new year. Unlike in America, it’s part of the culture here to celebrate the new year rather than just go out and party then sleep through the first day of the year. The concert we went to featured local music students and professions. And although I couldn’t understand the language, I could greatly appreciate the music. It started off with young ukulele students playing both modern and classical pieces, then it continued with the local professionals playing various pieces, and finished with some popular opera pieces. One thing I was surprised about with the amount of young children in the audience that were able to sit peacefully through the concert without complaint. My program coordinator then explained that this is because here in Sicily children are introduced to classical music and concerts much earlier. In America, classical music and opera only appeals to a particular subset of the population, yet here it is ingrained into the culture.
Today was my first day of class. The whole reason I am even on this trip, besides to gain world experience, it to take a class on the history of Sicily. Sadly I am taking class in English because I am no where near good enough in Italian to take it the native language, but on the side I hope to pick it up. My host family has been very helpful with that because they try talking to me in Italian so I can get some practice in the language. Of course there are times where I can’t understand but thanks to technology we can find a way. If they can’t find the word in English or I can decipher the Italian word, then we pull out my iPad which fortunately has a translation app.
After class the school took us and other students that are here studying for a couple weeks on a tour of the town. I actually really love the way the town is set up. Pretty much everything runs off one main street that extends for ages. Then from there, millions of side streets extend off. The other thing I love is that this is mainly a pedestrian town. Cars are only allowed on certain side streets and around the circumference of the city. Besides that, everything is walking. And considering this town is placed on a mountain side, everyone here is in great shape. The only street that is level is the main road. Everything else is either up or down a stair case. The thing about this set up that had me the most confused is that the staircases off the main pedestrian street all have street names. Never in America have I seen a staircase be considered a street. If that’s wasn’t the case here then you would have a lot of houses, shops, and other businesses without an address.
When going on our city tour Caroline (my friend from school who is also on this trip with me) and I discovered a million places that we plan to explore while we are here. Our list includes everything from certain cake shops to historical landmarks. What’s great about taking Sicilian history in Sicily is that as we learn about lessons we can visit some of those locations or see how the influence of the different settlers have left their impression. And today was just day one. So every day as we learn a little bit more, the city looks just a little bit different because we are more aware of what to look for. Every minute here is an eye opening experience and I can’t wait to discover more.