Exploring Taormina – part 1

Thanks to a little white pill and being dead tired I was able to sleep through the night, and only after great force of will was I able to pull myself out of bed at 10 AM. I needed to save some sleep for the next night. Angela was there when I went up to breakfast. Her Italian was becoming somewhat normal to my ears, although, still half asleep, I didn’t respond much. At least what I did say was more Italian than Spanish.

Breakfast was the typical sparse offering, toasted bread, butter, homemade marmalade, Nutella, a general section of cereals and a modest selection of fruit. I, however, was more focused on the coffee, good and hot. I was starting to wake up. So unlike me, this morning groggy feeling. For this first week in Europe I’ll know again just what it feels like to be a night person. And then slowly my own natural rhythms will kick in and I’ll revert to fading early in the evening and waking up bright and ready to go with the sun. But for now I’m a night person who needs her morning coffee.

I spent the morning, what was left of it, studying – I have a test tomorrow. Although I’m not too anxious to test into a class higher than my speaking abilities. I’ve found that if you test too high and the other students speak much better than you do it can be difficult to get your speaking time in, and it is very important to talk as much as you can.

Learning language is much more about putting into practice what you already know theoretically than just acquiring more information. More information isn’t going to help much if you can’t use what you have already learned. But unfortunately I’m still fixated on ANKI, just how many cards was I behind? 1300. My mind wasn’t working as it should, and it took quite a while to get the number of cards down to something more reasonable for the next day.

By mid-afternoon I was hungry and in great need of some exercise and fresh air. I found a slice of pizza without too much difficulty and was even able to ask about the kinds he had and more importantly to understand the choices offered. It’s a start.

Taormina is a great place for walking, especially if you like hills and want some real exercise as opposed to just strolling. I ended up on a back road, via Braca, with no turn off, that just kept winding up. I eventually crossed the road that goes to the Castello, and continued to the top. The town continues all the way to the ruins of the Castello which itself isn’t much, but offers fabulous views of the town all around and the sea beyond.

Not knowing exactly where I was going, I wound back down through the narrow streets of the front side of the hill and eventually made my way down a path that took me back to the town center. Lots of prickly pear with the fruit just ripening, and the blue of the Mediterranean in contrast to the soft colors of the town and desert landscape of the hills.

Finally back in town I happened on the main street, corso Umberto. After all that climbing I felt I had earned my first gelato. Lots of shops to choose from. But with so many people all out with the same idea, the shops were fairly crowded.

At first it wasn’t obvious just how you order your gelato, but after I watched for a minute, I noticed that it was a pay first system much like they used Aregentina. (I had lot of practice in the gelato shops of Bariloche, Argentina.) My first gelato of Sicily, cioccolato e frutti dei boschi, rich and creamy, hit the spot.

Angela was home when I got back to the house. She asked me if I’ve been to the beach because my hair was all wet. I explained with great difficulty -this is not difficult to say but my Italian has broken down again – that my hair is wet because I climbed to the Castello and thus I learned the word for sweat.

Dinner was much like the night before with the addition of my first Sicilian caponata, more vinegary than I have experienced in the past and with the addition of raisins. Tasted more like a pickled relish than a salad side dish, but I wasn’t disappointed.

After dinner Helena, my housemate, and I went out and she showed me around town. Conversation with her is difficult, neither of us speak very well, and we have difficulty with each others’ accents. The conversation often breaks down and we have to figure other ways to explain our meaning, but no English is used.

This is the perfect opportunity for learning language, negotiation of meaning. Teachers try to create this environment in the classroom and here it just comes naturally. 

As we were walking down the street chatting trying to communicate, a man asked us if we were from the Babaliona school. There is only one school in town for foreign students and therefore it is obvious how he would know. Two tourists don’t normally walk down the street speaking painfully bad Italian. He said he was from a nearby town and comes to Taormina on the weekends. By the end of the conversation I was wondering if he was really Italian. It would be easy to fool us. It didn’t really matter though, it was a great way to practice before my placement test tomorrow. We said goodbye to Ignacio and he gave us his number already written out on a piece of paper, in case we wanted to call him. Left me wondering just how often he does this. Maybe he is Italian after all.

For links to all the posts in this series see the Taormina, Sicily page.