Leaving Italy

18 January 2000

After doing etna we were ready to head to places off of sicily. We looked into going to malta but the schedule didn't work out. Our original plan after mt. Etna was to head toward France via sardegna and corisica. We had made plans to visit someone in the french riviera in a little over a week so we had time to explore the islands a little bit. We knew a boat ran to sardegna Saturday evening (this was Saturday) from palermo. After finding that we couldn't go to malta, we headed for palermo to try to get on the boat.

We arrived in palermo early in the afternoon when everything was closed. The rest of the day went along those lines. We walked a mile or two with our packs on only to discover that the boat we wanted to get on was full. So we walked back with our packs and checked into a hotel. At this point we thought we might go back to the boat office to buy the tickets for the next boat (on Tuesday.) so we walked the distance again, this time without packs, only to discover that they couldn't sell us the tickets because of some reason we didn't completely understand. At this point we headed back to the hotel. But soon it was time to eat. We walked almost the same distance again trying to find decent food. We were successful at least in this endevour. At this time we were more than ready to leave italy.

I have to explain my views of italians. It won't seem very opened minded, but after spending over a month there i don't feel it is inaccurate. The stereotype of the sexy, arrogant italian is true. They spend all of their efforts making themselves and everything around them in public look fabulous. So people in italy are shiny and painted. Streets and apartment buildings look terrible from the outside but are clean and sparsely decorated inside. I almost get the impression they spend all their money on clothing because we never saw a lot of furniture in houses. More people see them in public than see the insides of their houses right?

Italians, in general, act like children. They are often not disciplined as children, not even told 'no'. The parents just laugh at children who do things unusual or incorrectly. They ignore everything else. adults walk down the street like they are the only real person that exists in the world. They don't see other people. It is quite frustrating.

Of course as a result, italians do what they want. They don't obey rules of any kind. If there is a no smoking sign in a room, you can be assured there will be someone smoking in it. Actually, you can be assured that if there is an italian in a room, there will be a lit cigarette. At least it seemed that way. Don't even get me started on how they drive!

One more thing that was frustrating in sicily specifically, and elsewhere as well, were the roles of men and women in society. Women are really expected to serve men and do all of the work at home and with the children. While women are doing this (they are surprisingly allowed to hold down jobs outside as well) the men go out and play. It was very sad. We rarely saw women working in jobs other than as cashiers in shops. We hadn't seen this anywhere else in europe. Everywhere else we had seen women having varying levels of general jobs. The weird thing about it all in italy is that they tend to be much more progressive about every other social issue that the u.s. tends to be conservative about. It was distressing to us.

Okay, i am done ranting. You get the point. I could continue. I know i am making sweeping generalizations. Some of these characteristics are more pronounced in the south, where we spent most of our time in the country. However, we did observe these characteristics during our entire time in italy. All i can say is that i cannot figure out how germany and italy are in a union together! (not to imply that germans are perfect either, just that they are polar opposites in so many ways to italians.)

In any case we were very much looking forward to leaving the country, but very far from being able to. Sicily is a long way from any european border. We tried to make the best of it by going to the hostel in erice for the few days until the boat left from trapani. I woke up in the morning in palermo feeling like i was getting a cold, but not overly worried about it. We wandered around town for an hour or two with our packs on before getting on a train to trapani. Once in trapani we had to figure out how exactly to get to the hostel. We were disappointed to find out that the city buses serve the area near the hostel, meaning that it isn't at the top of the hill in the cool old city. Oh well. It was Sunday and almost everything was closed. We couldn't even get tickets for the bus but the driver took us on anyway. Once off the bus we had to walk a km uphill to reach the hostel. I was so exhausted when we got there. We had to order pizza for dinner since we were so far from anything. The water was not potable so we had a bit of a shortage. But the beds were really comfortable! I was glad, i suspected i was going to be spending a bit of time there, since by this time i could barely stand up i felt so terrible.

I spent that night and the next day with fever. There were two morrocan students living in the hostel who asked if i wanted to go to the hospital. That was easy to answer: NO. However, when i discovered my temperature was over 103, i didn't take much convincing to call a doctor. They said it was free. I was a bit nervous about seeing a doctor, mostly because i didn't know what to expect. It took him a long time to arrive (he made a hostel call!) when he did arrive we quickly discovered he didn't speak english. It didn't matter much since we all know what doctors want: open up and say ahhhh, etc. he ended up prescribing antibiotics and a drug to keep my fever at a low level. One of the morrocan guys helped translate and then went out with the doctor to get the prescribed drugs. While he was out we had a nice little earthquake! It was a bit surreal. It was also a bit scary knowing the story of a group of towns that were destroyed by an earthquake a few decades ago, not too far away from where we were. Ours was a little one though, and as long as it was the only one i wasn't too worried. I wasn't in much of a place to worry about much of anything other than the immense headache i had. All i knew is that i just had a visit from a doctor and was receiving medications at no cost. Maybe sicily wasn't so bad after all.

Unfortunately mrk. Had bought our tickets to take the boat to sardegna the next night. So the next day he ran arround running errands for me and trying to get a refund. That night he came down with the same bug i had. We were definitely a pair.

We had a couple of nice americans buy us water in town the next day since we were both out. We just laid around in bed all day sleeping as much as possible. In the evening, as we were napping peacefully, the hostel staff person who had been there every evening as well, came in with a doctor. It was a lot unexpected, but we were grateful. He checked both of us, confirmed my presciption, and prescribed similar for mrk. Mrk. Had already been taking my antipyretics since his fever was getting too high and mine had finally settled to a standard 101ish.

The next day was better and on and on until we could finally leave the hostel, three days later. It was already mid january! We had called our host in cannes to discover that she also had come down with influenza and bronchitis and would be taking it easy while we were there. We had a few days before we had to be there. So immediately upon leaving the hostel, we spent 24 hours on a couple of trains to get to genoa. It was such a relief to be out of sicilia and near a national border! We didn't do too much in genova since we were still recovering, but it was a fun place to explore. It felt more international. It was still italy though.

When we went to buy our tickets to cannes we discovered there was a train strike in southwestern France. We were convinced that italy wouldn't let us leave!!!! It turned out all right. Even though we had been told our train wouldn't go all the way to Nice as scheduled, it did. We almost kissed the ground when we arrived! We weren't quite so excited after waiting a couple of hours for the next train to cannes, but it was still a relief.

It still took a another week or so to completely recover from our illness. We found out before we left sicily that all the hospitals were full due to the influenza epidemic. I was just worried about who i gave it to in the hostel. I would feel really bad if the morrocans and americans that helped us so much were rewarded with such a nastly illness. Oh well, what can you do besides leave the country?

So there you have it, the successful story of our escape from italy. Okay, okay, it wasn't that bad, but we were starting to get worried it wouldn't happen. I don't think you would be surprised if i told you that we are planning on avoiding that frontier for a while. i might even try to avoid italian-speaking areas of switzerland. We'll see.

© Copyright Cheryln Crowl 2000



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