Don Olaf - 11 July 2007

Sicily. Land of the cannolo and the Speedo.

Beating old fears

Olaf and JumbaIt seems that England can't cope without the Olaf Meister around. I leave, and Tony Blair retires.
They miss me, since the Spice Girls probably re-formed to fill that gap left by me. And now that there are no more kick-ass black belts like me in town, terrorists are striking again.

It took me two days to get used to be alone, in my old room, and work in remote with my colleagues. And just when I was getting comfortable, I was out again.

Map of SicilyYou may remember Jumba (his real name is much longer, Gianbattista, but since he's a short guy I've always called Jumba, or J) from my 2005 report of the massive Milton Keynes Green Day concert. He's got the kind of face that is difficult to forget.

SiciliansWhy you may not know is that he came back again in London. And again. And again. Alone, with different girls, or just to see me and exploit my free accommodation to enjoy the city.

Few months ago, knowing that I would come back to Italy for a while, I decided it was payback time, so I forced him to invite me to his empty parents' house somewhere down in the South.

Driving AroundYou probably know Sicily for its reputation of an island controlled by the mafia. All those American films, all those stereotypes, well, they all come from here.
I'm personally much more familiar with the North of Italy and the rest of Europe (and some parts of the world) than with the South. For some reason I've never gone there, even for a short weekend, proud of my northern origin. I remember swearing many years ago that I'd rather explore the Southern Hemisphere than Sicily. Funny thing, I'm moving in South Africa. Oh well.

DrinkingYou probably know Sicily for its reputation of an island controlled by the mafiaOn the map, Sicily is that triangle close to the tip of my boot-shaped peninsula. If only we could move it, I'm sure we could use Sicily as a football and score to Gheddafi a great goal.

For years I've avoided it. But, since I've been on a roll since I moved in 2007 and reached my 30th birthday, I decided that it was a great chance to visit the old boogey place.

The EtnaI met Gianba at the airport, and checked in for the 2 hours flight to Catania. Our final destination was Scoglitti, the place where Gianba's parents met and lived many years ago. On the map, Scoglitti in on the longest side of the island, facing North Africa. As soon as we landed, the heat hit me just like it did back in 2005, when I stepped for the first time in South Africa. It was hot, and I wasn't ready.

We quickly got our car (with air conditioning) from the car rental and we left the Etna, one of the few active volcanoes in Italy, behind us, driving towards the Deep South.

DrivingThe travel reminded me of my Los Angeles to Las Vegas crazy trip. There is only one way to get to Vittoria and then Scoglitti, and for 150km we drove in the middle of nowhere, far from the sea and from any big city.
Unfortunately, unlike America, the roads were quite wild, and with only 2 lanes. This never stopped the true Sicilians to pass us in any occasion, in every dangerous corner, in every direction. Gianba explained me that they simply don't care about the rules. After all, if the Italian Government doesn't really care about them, why should they? This is the explanation anyway. In a country controlled by the mafia (in a low key way from the old ways), there is no place for other forms of government.

SiciliansThe land around us was brown, and dry. In Sicily there are many towns without water, and people need to drive to the closes public fountain to get something to drink or use to cook. I could see alternative form of energy getting used (mostly wind turbines and solar panels) but it seems that the island need more, much more.

We reached Scoglitti and Gianba's empty house 3 hours later. Luckily his parents installed a water tank underneath the property, big enough to provide fresh water to the house for their summer holidays. So, after a quick setup, it was time to go down town and finally experience the Sicilian way.

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