Katrina Ellis, October 31st, 2014
Today is HALLOWEEN!!!! I am feeling a little torn about what to do today because my host mom is making a traditional Spanish Halloween dinner, but the group at the church is having an open mic night/costume party. I was planning on going to this party until I saw her cooking this morning. Ugh! This struggle is real! Right now I am sitting in the school café drinking a café con leche desnatada con canela! MMm! So, I have finally started to settle in! I somewhat have a routine, school work is piling up and I am continuing to procrastinate, I am making friends and life is finally not stressing me out every two minutes! I am loving my time here. I definitely still miss my friends and family and fiancé, but I have figured out a routine to where I get to talk to most of them from time to time. AND, Brian is coming to visit me in t minus 22 days! I am beyond excited!!! Right now I am working on a plan for what to do when he gets here, this weekends trip to Monserrat, and various travel plans! School is a little more difficult than I thought it was going to be, but I am managing. The main thing I want to write about is what I did this past weekend, VISIT MI FAMILIA IN SICILIA!!
So, this is an entirely crazy story and I am going to start from the very beginning. Bea and I, like the responsible young women we are, booked out flight a good 3 weeks to a month before our plane was scheduled to depart. It was scheduled to leave on Friday November 24th at 12:40pm. On Thursday night, right as we are getting ready to sit down for dinner (around 10pm), Bea gets an email from the airline saying that our flight was canceled due to a recent transportation strike in Italy. Not only was it canceled, but we were going to have to pay to change our flight and we were not going to be refunded for our return ticket, since it wasn’t technically effected by the strike. Seriously?! Not only is this horrible news because meeting my Sicilian family is literally the only thing that got me through the week and now it wasn’t even going to happen, but I am going to have to pay for the trip reguardeless?! Ugh! I was furious. That night, we stayed up late trying to find another weekend to visit them that wouldn’t be too much more money than we had already spent, and we made zero progress. I went to be completely angry and bummed and all sorts of negative emotions.
The next morning, I woke up early because I was too upset to sleep. I tried for at least an hour to get a hold of the airline on the telephone and had no luck, so I bit the bullet and deciding I was just going to go up to the airport and talk to them in person. Then they will have to deal with me right then and there! After an hour of wandering around, taking metros, busses and shuttles I found the customer service desk, in which I waited in line. SIDE STORY. While I am in line, this woman, probably in her late twenties, comes busting through the line passing everybody up. I thinking to myself, this is weird. The woman behind me in line, probably in her late 40s, becomes enraged at her lack of courtesy and decides to make the young woman go to the back of the line and wait like everyone else. Clearly this young lady was distressed, who would go pushing through a line at the airport customer service desk if they weren’t? So when the older woman approaches her, things get UGLY. And I mean they literally start fighting, physically! Pushing, pulling, hitting, and I have a front row seat! Meanwhile the guy at the customer service desk does NOTHING. He is just watching too! Haha finally both of the ladies boyfriends come and pull them apart and they both eventually get to talk to the customer service desk. One of the weirdest experiences of my life. Okay so then it was my turn. Im talking to this man(in broken Spanish), and he is talking to me (in broken English) and as I am telling him which flight I booked and how it was canceled and blah blah blah, he tells me that no, it actually has been rescheduled, and is leaving in an hour and a half! WWHHHHAAATTT???? I am at the airport with nothing more than the clothes I have on my back, Bea is not with me and actually she is sleeping at home because we stayed up late last night trying to find other flights, and I have no cell phone to call her. OH MY GOSH! (panic ensues). I am talking to this man saying stuff like “what do you mean?…But I don’t have my bags… my friend is supposed to be coming with me and she isn’t here… there is no way I can make it”. His only response was to tell me to go up to the check in desk and have them print my boarding pass. Thinking he doesn’t understand me, I let out a distressed “YO TENGO NADA!!! HOW AM I JUST SUPPOSED TO PRINT MY BOARING PASS?!?!” well this is all the help I was going to get from him, so I proceed to the check in desk where I meet a super nice lady who helps me so so so much! She pointed me in a direction where I could use a phone, printed my pass, and helped me avoid lines so I could speed up the check in process. I finally get a hold of Bea, she scrambles to pack not only her bag, but also mine, snags a taxi, runs to the airport, and we somehow manage to make it on the plane 5 minutes before take off. HOLY COW! PRAISE GOD! It all worked out. But wait, another problem arises. I realize that my family is no longer expecting be because I told them last night that our flight got canceled. They are supposed to pick us up from the airport and provide us with a place to sleep (such generous people), and now they have no idea we are even coming! AND I have no way of contacting them because wifi does not exist on a plane… Just when I thought the mayhem was over! Well long story short, 1 plane, 1 bus, 2 internet cafes, and a train later, we make it to Cefalu, the town where my family lives and the town my great-grandfather grew up in. My family picked us up from the train station and all is well. We were greeted by Donatella and Eleonora, my third cousins. They are so sweet and welcome us with hugs and kisses. I had only spoken with Donatella on facebook messaging so this was the first face-to-face meeting and the first time I heard them speak. They were so cute apologizing for their English and saying how horrible it was, but it really wasn’t that bad! Definitely better than my Italian! I immediately felt comfortable around them, like instant family connections took away an possible awkwardness. I seriously can’t put into words how amazing they are. So now that we finally made it to our destination, Wow! I am HUNGRY!!
So after all this craziness of a day, D and E take us to our room at the Bed & Breakfast they own. They literally had an entire full one bedroom apartment for us! Complete food stocked for us for breakfast! What? SO nice! Then they ask us if we are tired or if we want to go out and get some food. Hallelujah! FOOD! Bea and I quickly freshen up and meet them downstairs to go get a bite to eat. Donatella and her boyfriend, Guiseppe (aka Pino), meet us at their car and take us to their favorite pizza place in town. I ordered a pizza with jamon, fungi(mushrooms) and some super good cheese and sause. OH MAN!!! It was sooooo delicious! And, being sicily, we all had an entire pizza to ourselves. There was no way I was going to finish it, but I wish I could have! After dinner, they ordered us a round of limoncello, an icy cold refreshing liquor shot that is a common drink in Italy after your meal. It is a digestive and is supposed to help settle your food after a big meal, which is literally every meal in Italy! After that, Donatella and Pino took us on a little night car ride tour of cefalu. I have been missing car rides so bad. I haven’t been in a car since my host mom picked us up from the airport. It was so nice. After the little tour, they took us back to out apartment and we got some much needed sleep.
The next morning, we woke up, ate breakfast on our terrace that overlooked the ocean to our left, and a small citrus orchard to our right. Oh man! Talk about luxury! The weather was a little chillier than we had anticipated, so we struggle with our clothes a little the whole trip (probably also due to the fact that Bea had to pack 2 bags in 10 minutes). Haha. We took our time getting ready for the day and when we were ready, I texted Donatella and she met us downstairs for an actual tour of the town. Her and Eleonora, her younger sister, showed us around the whole town. The town was absolutely beautiful during the day. Old narrow streets, a big cathedral, the ocean, a big mountain called La Rocca, an old clothes washing station, a couple harbors, and so many gelato, food, and gift shops! I loved it! When lunch time rolled around, we went over to my family’s apartment where we met D and E’s parents, Salvatore (Toto), and Conjetta. Conjetta had been cooking all morning for us and treated us like royalty. The food was SOOOOO good! And so much! She had prepared and 4 course meal, yes 4. The first couse is typically a pasta of some sort, we had rice thing. Second, we had a chicken patty, and some salad. Third course was fruit, which we ate the cactus fruit, and lastly was postre. I had a canolo for the first time! Everything was delicious. After lunch we sat down with Salvatore and he showed me our family tree which he has been working on for YEARS. I helped him fill in a few blanks and I enjoyed the whole experience so much. I have always been curious about family history and it was like discovery a side to myself I have never known before. He had family traced back to the 1700s! holy cow! And he hasn’t been using the internet to find this information, he literally has 300 year old documents that he is deciphering and finding where they fit. WOW! So cool! I was in awe! Just absolutely amazed. He even made me my own condensed family tree and let me keep it. Right before I left, he gave me a copy of his big one. That is a present I will cherish my entire life and share with my entire family! Later that day, we walked along the beach and went to a few shops in town. Bea and I found a few souveneirs to take home and it was so so so much fun! That night we went out to dinner with D & E and their boyfriends, who are both named Giuseppe! Haha this name translates to Joseph and is an extremely common name in Sicily. We went to a neighboring town that was a 30 minute drive through the mountains. I got a little car sick, but it was so worth it. It was called Castelbuono, meaning good castle! Mushrooms were in their peak season and a nice restaurant was have specials for all their meals that had mushrooms. It was amazingly delicious and we had great company. We laughed so much that night about being starving, about communication barriers, and just poking fun at each other. It was like we had all been friends for years. Afterwards we walked through the town, saw the castle, and drove back to Cefalu.
The next day, we had a relaxing breakfast once again, and then met up with D & E for a morning hike up La Rocca! I was in Heaven! Apparently, the water levels in cefalu used to be much higher so the town used to be a little bit up the rock. We got to see ruins of the old roman city on our way up which was so cool. I love hiking so I fully enjoyed the entire thing. I was probably the only one who wasn’t slightly miserable at some point. But one of the things I love about hiking, is that as you walk, the view is the best thing you have ever seen, and you think there is no way it can get better, but the higher you go, the more amazing it gets! From the top, we could see the whole town, the ocean, and the rolling mountains of the country side! Wow! Loved it! On the way down, we got to see some goats just chillen eating some grass. They let us get so close to them and they didn’t run away. I love unexpected surprises like that! After the hike we were all exhausted and had worked up an apetite. We went over to their house again, where we met the rest of the family, the oldest sister Annalisa, her husband Cicho, and their 2 week old baby girl(bambina) Carla. This day we had a HUGE meal and it was even better than the first day. The first plate was some penne pasta, which was to die for! The second was some sort of meet that was so tender and absolutely delicious, a red pepper stuffed with ground beef(perfect flavor). The third we had fruit once again, today we tried a Sicilian banana which is much less sweet than a normal banana and a lot fatter. I really enjoyed it. Then for dessert, we ate a profiterol pie which was balls of yummy dough filled with cream all stacked on top of each other smothered in chocolate mouse and drops of the same cream that was on the inside of the ball. OMG! YUM! I could have eaten the whole tray! After lunch, we went back to our apartment for a little siesta. We rested, then walked around a little looking at different shops, then met up with the family for a small dinner. We ate some street food. A calzone thing that was so so so so yummy, and a fried stuffed rice ball, apparently Sicily is famous for them and this is the only place you can get them. That was also delicious! That night we said good bye to some of the family and I had to hold back a few tears. They are a part of my family now and it was so hard to say good bye to such amazing, generous and loving people.
The next morning Donatella and her father Salvatore took us to the airport at 4am so we could catch our 6:50 flight back to Barcelona. We had a connecting flight in Rome but it was only a 2 hour lay over so we didn’t get to leave the airport. We got back to Barcelona around 12pm and back to school we went. The trip was so wonderful! I hope that I can see them all again someday. We talked about making another trip to Cefalu in which I bring my whole family, and they talked about coming to the US to see Texas and fulfill their dream of going to New York City! I truly hope to see them again! What an amazing time!