Sunday, January 29, 2012

It has been (a little more than) a week in Sicily, and it is still just as great as the first day.  In that short period of time, I can say I have already changed quite a bit!  My diet has seen the biggest impact.  More on this later…

My class schedule is very favorable: Italian, Mediterranean Ecosystems, Volcanolgy, Black and White Photography, and the Sicilian Core class.  I really enjoy all of my classes and am excited for what the future brings in each one.  One of my goals for this experience is to be able to speak Italian semi-well (well enough to sustain a conversation).  There is an older lady living upstairs that Nate, Frankie, and I have agreed to help, but it is very difficult to offer assistance without being able to communicate.  I’m also the “president” of the food delivery volunteering, so it would be nice to be able to communicate with the locals when I help them.  The language barrier is by far the most difficult object to overcome.  It is going to take a lot of time and effort, but I’m up for the challenge!

The rest of the week was mainly devoted to familiarizing myself with the area.  Ortigia is very small, but it is still foreign and therefore hard to know the names of places.  At least I know how to get back to my apartment from anywhere!

Now to the changes in my diet.  First off, Italians tend to only have two meals.  For “breakfast” they just snack and have sweets.  Lunch is usually around 1 in the afternoon, and dinner is around 7/8 at night.  This took some getting used to, but I’ve come around to it and regained my appetite.  There are also a few foods that aren’t common in the states.  Horse meat is rather popular, so I had to try it.  Lo and behold, it’s delicious!  I have also taken a liking to Arancini (rice balls) and blood oranges.  There are more culinary adventures I have yet to take on like octopus and prickly pears.  All in good time.

Yesterday (January 27), we visited the city of Catania.  Unfortunately, it was too foggy to see Etna, but I know it awaits me!  Catania’s architecture was gorgeous!  In general, everything was made of basalt, a volcanic rock.

Well, that’s all I can think of to write now, so enjoy some pictures!  Ciao!

                                Chocolate Pudding with Pistachio Crumble.  Perfetto!

                                                        Sunset over the bay.

                                                     The sunset over Syracusa

                                  Statue of St. Sebastian during the St. Sebastian festival.

                                               Etna looming large in the distance.

                  An Aston Martin DB9 (my dream car) in Catania.  "Someone important's"...

                                                               Horse Burger!

                 St. Agatha's Cathedral in Catania.  Beautiful architecture and fascinating history.

                                                   Catania: the city of stray cats.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Finally Time to Explore!

It's the first Sunday of the semester, the Sunday before classes start... (more importantly) the Sunday the Patriots take on the Ravens in the AFC Championship game (GO PATS!).  It's also the first day that we have to explore the island of Ortigia and do whatever we so please.  Orientation all but culminated last night with wine tasting at a local wine store, where we shared a few bottles of an anti-Mafia red wine.  The orientation process included the general rules and regulations of the program and housing, a tour led by Ramzi, the MCAS student services coordinator, showing local markets, the best restaurants around, cheap barber shops, and historically significant buildings around Ortigia.

Ramzi has set up many trips for the semester including a 5-day trip to Tunisia at the start of March.  Granada, Spain and other cities around Sicily are future destinations for the MCAS group.  There are also 9 weeks for us to travel, explore, whatever by ourselves.  Initial plans show a possible Easter Sunday mass with the Pope..?  It will be exciting to see what destinations await!

The apartment I share with the other guys in the program (Nate and Frankie) is arguably the least favorable of them all.  The kitchen is so small we can barely even walk in it, the shower literally spits water at you with no constant flow and with no force, and it always seems freezing.  Yet, I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be right now!  The dubbed "Cave" already feels like a home away from home.

Everyone else in the program (all 13) are the only students at MCAS.  We all really get along well, granted we've but just met each other.  Classes should be interesting seeing as I may have one or two others in a few of them.  I am REALLY excited for all of the courses I have registered for.

Well, that is all I can think of that I have to share at this moment...  I'm excited to get to explore Ortigia in more depth and without a schedule (so I can take more pictures!)


Thursday, January 19, 2012

First Full Day

So today is my first full day in Sicily!  I arrived yesterday at about 4pm local time to my apartment and got settled in, met a few people in the program, and realized I know just about nothing in Italian...  Since nothing much exciting really happened, I figured I would at least share my decision to come to Sicily through the program offered by Arcadia University:

There were a few main factors in my decision to study here.  First off was the professionalism the Arcadia University study abroad coordinators showed in my quest to come here.  At all of the study abroad fairs Saint Michael's offered, I felt the Arcadia representative explained everything the best.  Of course, the courses offered also seemed quite interesting to me.  Being a biology major, there were only a few countries/locations I could have gone to to take biology courses.  The Arcadia program through MCAS (Mediterranean Center for Arts and Sciences) offered some interesting once-in-a-lifetime biology courses (Volcanology and Mediterranean Ecosystems).  Finally, the location is beautiful!  I have yet to fully explore everything offered by Syracusa and the rest of the island, but I am sure there are many more beautiful surprises than those one can find on Google Images.