Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mio arrivo


     As I stepped out of the baggage claim, I immediately spotted a smiling woman. She has long, dark brown hair and olive skin – expected for a Sicilian? Just walking over to her made her seem like a long lost aunt or some sort of family member. She immediately hugged me and gave me a kiss on the forehead. “Benvenuto!!”
     Of course she knew half the people coming off of my puddle jumper, and introduced me from the beginning as her “American friend that goes to school near New York that came all the way here to help with the turtles!”
“There are only 6000 of us on this island, so its like we all know each other. We leave doors unlocked because chances are, our best friend’s cousin wouldn’t rob us… right?”
The flight over was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, or at least the part I was awake for. We flew over Sicily and the Mediterranean as the sun was setting. The foggy sky was basically a giant rainbow – on all sides of the plane there was a gradient going from orange to purple to pink to blue and finally dark night sky up above. Stars shone, too… nice change from New Haven!
     Lampedusa was dark when I arrived, but I could already tell the streets were cute, clean and Mediterranean colored – tan, white, and pastels. Daniela proudly drives a 29 year old Honda Civic, has offered me her grandmother’s bicycle, and said that they ordered a car for us to drive. Hopefully it’s not stick shift? I guess it’s never too late to learn!
     My apartment, graciously prepared by Daniela, is perfect. There are three bedrooms, all shared by two volunteer/interns. Another American girl is joining me tomorrow and the rest, coming Wednesday, have been working with Daniela on their theses for college.
     We have an old fashioned kitchen and a summery balcony. The views overlook downtown and the harbor, absolutely lovely and I can’t wait to see it in the daytime. We will be cooking our own food, and apparently the two boys are wonderful Italian chefs. Future husbands, maybe?
     No day in Italy is complete without GELATO, so Daniela took me out to her second favorite ice cream bar. The first was closed. On the way, we saw many groups of youth gathered at corners – “Immigrants from Africa! Sometimes from Pakistan, Subsaharan, too. But they come on boats from Tunisia.” The mayor has given them asylum and continues to do so, sending patrol boats daily to rescue more undocumented immigrants and monitor the area. “They’re not dangerous. The have a place to sleep and food to eat, so they have no reason to do harm. You’ll see them everywhere!”
     We talked about sea turtles and her job – she’s the only full-time employee and runs the rescue center completely on her own from October to May without any volunteer help. She is also the organizer of the veterinary conference of the annual sea turtle symposiums, which Gary referred me to a while ago!
     We also discussed her brother’s experience at Yale and how exciting it is that I remind her of him, and that when I sent her my first email she was coincidentally visiting him and seeing him for the first time in years. She welcomed me again saying that I was like part of her family because I talked about Yale the same way her brother did, and seem to “study just as much.” I guess that was a compliment?
     Again, she introduced me to everyone in the same way as before. The ice cream shop owners and workers, her Pakistani friend that owns a touristy shop – probably the only one around, and even a few of her students (Daniela teaches math and science at the local k-12 school). She says that teaching is frustrating because the kids do nothing outside the classroom and barely any in it. They have very little to no motivation. But she tries to teach science with a valuable local perspective. “Our island will be a mess in 5 years if we don’t take care of it. If they want to keep having lazy, nice, pretty lives, they better take care of where they live at least. Or else it wont’ be here.” I also met a fisherman and his girlfriend that have brought injured turtles to the rescue center in the past.

 The view of Lampedusa, the town on the island, from my apartment's great kitchen!

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