Plugged into a super mega mix of 1980s one hit wonders, I’m sitting on the bus watching the scenery outside transform from crumbling city outskirts to sunburned hills and orange groves, and finally to sparkling blue ocean. I’m on my way to see my old flatmate Maria Rita in her small town in western Sicily. I remember the day I met her, she was one of three four-eyed girls shyly standing with their backs to the corridor wall, watching me curiously as I was shown around the apartment that was to soon become my home. ‘Have you heard of Corleone?’ she asked me the day I moved in. ‘Certainly’, I replied cheekily, ‘who hasn’t. Is that your family?’
One year on and I’ve just returned to Catania, where it all started. After a few weeks finding my feet in the protected bosom of my northern relatives I remember stepping off the plane into the deep south – the real Italy some say – to taste and sample the sights and food, and to warm my bones after a long, cold Melbourne winter. Who knew then what would prevail, and that by chance (or luck) I would find myself back here six months later taking on a short work contract, my first gig at teaching English after studying like a madwoman in Rome. And now, after a couple of months AWOL in the UK, returning to a place that strangely feels like home.
I’m often asked what it is that I like about this city and to be honest I can’t quite put my finger on it. She’s no Botticelli that’s for sure, but she does have a charismatic raw charm about her that is getting under my skin. Her warmth is slowly seducing me, that of her climate and also of her people. Every day I am surprised by random acts of kindness and impromptu conversations with strangers.
Tomorrow I will be starting a new teaching job in reputable school that I hope will turn out to be an inspirational and rewarding year ahead. I’ve meet my work colleagues who all seem lovely so I think good relationships will be formed and aperitivi nights a plenty.
After a year here I’m excited about finally being able to stop living like I might be leaving any time soon, about putting down some roots and getting involved with local activities… and the locals. Hell, maybe I’ll even start living a relatively normal life in this crazy, lawless town.
I do miss home though, people mostly (and Asian food!), but know that this is where I need to be right now. In life there are no guarantees, and you learn to build your roads on today, because tomorrow’s ground can be uncertain. Living in the present makes a wonderful change from my organised life back home, right now it’s all about riding this crazy rollercoaster of life and letting go of the handle.