Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Setting Sights on Sicily

Palermo, Sicily
Ok.  A lot has happened, and at the same time, not much has happened.  I spent most of this last week packing.  I packed quickly and then was told that I could only take one suitcase off the island (for now) and they would send me the other one at Zone Conference (because of airplane issues).  So I repacked the necessary things, keeping the suitcase weight limit to 50 lbs, and 16 lbs for the carry on.  It took a while, but in the end I succeeded!

Pre-Palermo Pitty Party
Shot taken from plane window
I'll let you in on a secret:  I had been hoping to spend Christmas in Rome.  Obviously with transfers, that didn't happen.  But, my transfer to Sicily would take me via Rome (over night), and I was excited at the prospect of spending a day or so being shown around the sites of Italy's historic capital.  At least I'd have that.  But then, the office told us we were leaving Cagliari a day later (Wednesday).  That's ok, I thought.  Since our flight was departing in the AM, I should still have most of Wednesday to tour Rome.  Early Wednesday morning we arrived at the airport, only to find that the Assistants forgot to buy the airline tickets.  Sigh. We waited until evening to fly out.  I must admit, it was lovely departing Cagliari at day's end, seeing my beautiful city get smaller and smaller as we flew into the distance.  The mountains of Sardegna are absolutely gorgeous.  And then the sun began to set into a glowing hue, blending sea and horizon perfectly together in a colorful haze.  The sea and sky looked like perfect reflections of one another, and it felt more like we were suspended in color than actually flying anywhere.

Quasi-Christmas in the Capital
The lights of Rome welcomed us to the mainland.  I was flying in with 2 elders (I was the only sister leaving the island), so my two companions and I were picked up by the Assistants, who then became my companions after we dropped the elders off at their apartment in Rome.  Our van made a b-line to the train station to chauffeur other missionaries arriving from the south, except en route to the station, the Assistants took a wrong turn and ended up having to drive through the scenic part of town.  OH DARN!  We drove past Vatican City with some of St. Peter's Basilica and Bernini's Statues in the distance.  I saw part of the Roman Forum.  I saw the Capital.  I saw several churches.  I saw the Colosseum in the distance.  Basically, I had the best accidental detour ever.  EVER.  I tried soaking in as much as I possibly could, and what made it even better - the Assistants played Christmas music as we drove through.  I got Christmas in Rome.

Eventually, I was dropped off at Rome 2 apartment for the night and got to visit with Sorella O'Connor!  We had fun catching up.  The next day we took the bus back to the train station, enabling me to see a little of the city in daylight.  I think Rome is the most beautiful city in the world.  Absolutely gorgeous.

Perennial Peregrinate to Palermo

Okay, that alliteration was a stretch, I know, but, stick with me - I only have a couple more after this. The journey to Sicily was an epically long train ride down the entire coast of Italy to a ferry at the tip of the boot that took the entire train across to Sicily and down to Catania.  It was super cool to see the Italian countryside (looks like California!).

Sicily is so close to Italy's Mainland!
Let me tell you, seeing Sicily across the water from the mainland was awesome.  It's so close!  You could swim across, easily (if you were a swimmer, that is, which I am not).
photo: italiandish.squarespace.com

We went up on the ferry deck and ate an Arancino in the bright moonlight while watching the water.  Arancino is a Sicilian fried rice ball with meat and cheese in the middle, served with sauce.  Sooooo good. Stayed the night in Catania.  Next morning, took a 3-hour bus ride from Catania to Palermo.
After quasi-3-days of traveling, I finally made it!!

La Madonina (little Madonna)
Like a Statue of Liberty for Sicily
Palermo, Sicily
Situated in the Northwest of Sicily, Palermo's one million inhabitants are nestled in between stunning mountains and turquoise blue sea.  It is GORGEOUS and I fell in love with it the instant I arrived.
photo: courtesy Jeff
Palermo is one of Europe's most ancient cities with an unstable history that dates back 2,700 years. Phoenicians founded the city in the 8th century BC, but Sicily's strategic position in the middle of the Mediterranean, the gateway between North Africa and Europe, has invited many an invader, the likes of which include: the Carthaginians, Ostrogoths, Greeks, Romans, Normans, North African Moors, French, and Spanish Bourbons, to name a few.  The result of such a complex lineage is a city delirious with contrasts and multi-layered in architectural styles, food varieties, and place names.
Al Cancelletto Verde  (The Green Gate)
photo: courtesy Jeff
Balcony-lined narrow Alleyways
photo: for91days.com
Beautiful Architecture
photo: courtesy Jeff
Palaces with Arab influences
Like I said, the city charmed me the moment I arrived.  Much of the port area was bombed during World War II, and still bears the ruined scars, but that doesn't cripple the city.  There's a palpable excitement in the air.  The city is vividly alive with a particular character unlike others.  Thriving marketplaces in nearly every neighborhood.  Small apartments stacked high with plants adorning their balconies.  Everyone is out in the street visiting, playing, living.  The hospitality is welcoming and energizing.  I love, love, love this city.
One of many outdoor Markets
Typical Sicilian artwork
More amazing Architecture
photo: Jeff
Fortunes and Finding
My new Companion, Sorella Wiltbank, is a cute gal from Arizona (sorillawiltbank.blogspot.com).  I think we'll make a great team.  We had a few lessons in the past few days - one with a new convert who is 17 and originally from Ecuador.  He is SUPER great - heart of 100% gold.  There is another investigator who is not yet baptized because her mom hasn't given permission, but she is GOLDEN.  Currently, we don't have any investigators, so we've been on the hunt.  Sunday, we did Finding for about 4-5 hours.  It was the most entertaining Finding I have ever done.

Viva La Via Liberta!
Apparently, every Sunday they close Via Liberta to cars, and open it solely to pedestrians.  Scads of street performers, comedians, musicians, dancers, etc. ascend upon the place.  Literally, hundreds of people come out of their homes to partake in the camaraderie and peruse the area: Families, couples, old men and children - everyone is on the street.  Perfect for Finding!  We took advantage of our bounty and did lots of publicity for English Course, and when we ran out of fliers, we handed out pamphlets.  A few prospects were had from the day, and it looks promising.

I am thrilled to be here.  The vibrance of the city is infectious and, already, it has captured my heart.  In return, I'm hoping that the vibrance and truthfulness of the gospel will capture the hearts of the good people of Palermo, as well.

Ciao for Now,
Sorella Ashley Nef

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