Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Seafood Extravaganza & Red-hot Lava

I was invited to a birthday celebration for my friend's landlady last night. She is a pharmacist, her husband a businessman, and they have two school-age children. They took us to a seafood restaurant about 45 minutes away in an ancient village right on the sea, Santa Tecla. We had a table on the covered terrace, over the water. The waves crashing up against the building reminded me of some places in San Diego.

I have never, ever had such varied, delicious, and FRESH seafood in my life! We had about ten antipasto dishes--several seafood salads, tiny fried fish, calamari, shrimp, mussels, oysters, clams, stuffed swordfish, pickled octopus, and more. I thought it would never end. But that was just the beginning! Then we went on to two pasta dishes and a risotto--all with seafood. Then the main course! We had grilled thin slices of swordfish, just cut off the fresh fish, scampi, calamari . . . and ended up with lemon sorbet, Amarano liqueur, and expresso. Throughout the meal, which lasted several hours, we had a great chilled white wine that is bottled privately for this restaurant in the area of Nicosia.

We didn't get home till after midnight, so it was a short night. I thought I might die and go to heaven, but I did wake up this morning still stuffed. Best of all, it was all pre-ordered and paid for by our host and hostess.

Oh, we also saw the red-hot lava from the two eruptions on Etna on our way to and from the restaurant. Luckily, it's on the opposite side of the volcano from my house and moving very slowly. It was quite interesting to see its flow glow in the dark night . . . two red trails that eventually ran together.

Sunday, September 19, 2004


Besides wonderful wine and amaretto, Sicilians are famous for limoncello, a powerful and delicious liquer made from lemons. It just so happens that lemons grow abundantly in Sicily! Many people make their own. Some of my friends and I hope to try our hand at it soon, since it sounds like great fun and we LOVE to drink it. We got this recipe from the wife of a former administrator here at the high school. I can tell you from firsthand experience, that this is great stuff:


1 liter of pure alcohol (Alcool Puro 95*)
1 Kg. of sugar
1 1/2 liters of water (for rinsing)
12 lemons (just the rind--not the white part or it will be bitter)

Put the liter of alcohol and lemon peel in an air-tight jar and place in a dark place for 10-12 days.

After 10-12 days, make a syrup of one liter of water and 1 Kg. of sugar, heating until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat.

Drain liquid (alcohol) from lemon peels and reserve. Pour into the sugar water syrup. Take the remaining half liter of water and rinse lemon peels. Add that water to the syrup mixture. Mix well. Pour into bottles and close.

(thanks to Michelle Groomes)

Refrigerate. Serve icy cold and be prepared to be bowled over.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Entrance to my house (Gate 2)
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Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Renting a house in Sicily

Renting a house in Sicily involves a new set of laws, rules, and customs, just like Germany. Here, security is a BIG thing. My new house has a super-duper alarm system that I’m sure I will manage to set off a few times. My landlord works for or owns the alarm company, so it’s the best one can buy. Basically, there are sensors in the doors and in every room. If anyone were to open a door or come into a room, a VERY loud alarm goes off in the house and also at the police station and alarm company. I have to remember to set it every time I leave and come back. There are also double-paned, ultra-strong windows. Some of my friends have houses with bullet-proof windows, not to necessarily deflect bullets, but to make it hard to break in. There is a problem with home theft here, but not with violent crime. Burglars will not come in if anyone is home or a light is on. My house also has shutters that close and lock from the inside. Besides the front door, the other four doors do not open from the outside. To enter my yard, one has to go through two sets of locked gates which I control from a system inside the house. It will take a while to get used to all of this “safety.” The heating system is also very different. I will have bottled gas to heat water, heat the house, and run the stove. The gas is stored in a “bombola,” or tank outside the house. I have to have it filled soon, but there is some in there now. There are radiators in every room. I understand that I can also get a clothes dryer to run on bombola gas. Apparently there are occasional water shortages in Sicily. It sure doesn’t rain much. Every landlord of an American renter has to provide extra storage tanks of water in case of shortage. If the water pressure gets low in the house, the tanks are supposed to kick in automatically. The telephone has to be installed. This is a big expense (like Germany) and it’s not possible to have more than one phone, or move it, etc. Archaic. I can get Internet connection at the same time. Here's a funny thing--the electricity meter is in a box at the end of the driveway near the street. That way, the meter reader doesn't have to come in to read it! Not a bad idea. The house has an antenna but not a satellite dish at the present time. Don’t know if I’ll want one, as I rarely watch or want TV. My yard has lots of nice bushes and trees in it, but one large section is nothing but black lava sand. Nothing much grows in it, but I was told I can TRY. We’ll see about that. The rent is due on the 10th of every month. The mail is unsafe and unpredictable, so it will have to be done in cash, by hand, or I have to get an Italian account and put money in it, or we’ll figure something else out. This is unlike Germany, where everything was done automatically and electronically. Lots to get used to, but now I’m excited about getting my stuff and getting it moved in! FRIDAY!

Italian Class #2

I think Shana was right—Italian is fairly intuitive. I can amazed at how much more I can understand and do in just one week. The instructor said it is normal to be confused for about two months and then . . . presto! I believe I might really be able to learn this language!

Some fun phrases for the day:

Che sbaglio! (What a mistake!)

E’ strano! (Strange!)

Ci sono. (I’ve got it.)

Certo. (Certainly)

Madonna mia! Or Mama mia! (Good grief!)

E’ pazzesco’! (It’s crazy, incredible!)

Noi siamo in confusione. (I’m in a confused state.)

Sono confusa. (I’m confused)

Que scemo! (How stupid!)

Monday, September 06, 2004

Why does Greg shave his legs?
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Labor Day & the Essential Questions

About twenty of us from the schools celebrated Labor Day weekend and the end of summer with a weekend trip to Patti, on the north coast of Sicily, about two hours away. We stayed right on the beach and chilled out by swimming, sunning, eating, sightseeing, drinking, walking, shopping, eating, drinking, happy hours, and . . . .you get the idea? The weather was warm, sunny, and breezy the entire time. It was paradise. Some of the philosophical (Essential Questions) that were raised by my fellow educators and me follow:

1. Red or white wine?
2. Who's got the opener?
3. What can one do about an uneven tan line?
4. Is it better to get a life or get a PhD?
5. Why does Greg shave his legs?
6. Where are we having supper?

We spent many minutes pondering these questions and probably many others that I can't recall at the moment. School starts tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Learning Italian!

I had my first Italian class last night, a one-month intro course sponsored by Morale, Welfare, and Recreation. The instructor is a feisty little Italian woman named Francesca with the standard blonde hair, high heels, and designer clothes. She wrote on a flipchart with a marker that was 90% dry and impossible to read. She also talked a mile a minute. About half the class of twenty is teachers, so it's a lot of fun. She went a mile a minute and it was impossible to take it all in . . . we covered two units in 3 hours . . . the alphabet, introducing ourselves and others, dialogue in a restaurant, and basic conjugation of "to be." Whew.

There's always someone who already knows it all, and this class had a pair of them, a married couple. We advised them to quit ruining the curve and find another class. They made us all look bad.

One woman in the class is from the South and her pronunciation of Italian is funny. Well, we ARE in southern Italy, after all.

I'm determined to learn Italian no matter HOW long it takes me! This is just a starting point.

Get this, in Italian, high school teachers are called professoressa. Cool, huh? Elementary teachers and middle school have a different title (which I can't remember, of course).

It will be a while before I'm writing this in Italian. Stay tuned.