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Of Food, Scenery...and More Food
Posted 11/30/2016 10:00AM

By BrYan Soh '18

Sicilian Coastline - Brian Soh

“Sicily is gonna be beautiful!” “Just look at the pictures! It’s gonna be amazing...”

“Beautiful” was an understatement. And so was “amazing.” The beauty of that place cannot be simply confined into a word. You have to be there to know what I’m talking about...

3:30 pm. We arrived in Palermo, the capital of Sicily. Behind us, a grand rock formation stood. It was the first thing that caught my eye as soon as I came out of the airplane. It was so imposing, so marvellous, so beautiful. Never have I ever landed anywhere and been stunned by the surroundings of a boring airport runway. This trip to Sicily was off to a great start.

4 pm. We left the airport by bus as we drove out of Palermo and into Trapani, the very tip of the Italian “boot.” A “boring” two-hour bus ride where I thought I could catch up on some sleep was very abruptly interrupted by the majestic views of the Mediterranean on my right, and the grandeur of the rock formations and hills on my left. For the first 30 minutes, I could not help but snap tons of pictures as I swivelled my head left and right repeatedly. The sun was already beginning to set along the horizon and it cast rich, orange hues on the rock formations as the sky turned into an infinite canvas, with shades of orange, yellow, and blue spilled all over it.

Benvenuto in Sicilia.1

Sicilian Views - Brian Soh

Views, views, views. Sicily was all about views. There was the stunning landscape of the sunset when we arrived in Sicily, and the cool and serene view of the main street in front of a Cathedral from the balcony of our room, which came alive with people, lights, and chit-chat at night. There was the grand yet calming view of the Scopello coastline, with tall and imposing cliffs peppering the tranquil beach. And of course, the breathtaking and “on-top-of-the-world” scenery from the city of Erice.

This was where I finally realized how the learning of a language truly breaks down barriers and connects people and cultures.

There was the elegant mix of old and new, as the exquisitely old buildings met modernization, in the city. And then there was the salt pans nature reserve, where acres of salt pans stretched in every direction, with the occasional sighting of flamingos and other birds.

It was hard to believe that a city like this, on an island in the Mediterranean, could have such a variety of sceneries, all uniquely beautiful in their own ways but all so jaw-dropping too. It was even harder to believe that this was an Academic Travel as I got so mesmerized by the surroundings and started falling in love with the place. But this is not the end of all the good things about Sicily…

Just like the city, the people were equally warm, welcoming, and friendly. Maybe it has something to do with them living in a place that is surrounded by sheer beauty? Our host family was extremely warm and hospitable, always engaging us and making sure we felt comfortable. I never expected a host family experience to be this enjoyable—conversing with the parents in Italian about our lives and theirs, and about their city and ours. This was where I finally realized how the learning of a language truly breaks down barriers and connects people and cultures.

The people in the street also always gave off a relaxed and no-stress vibe, which just added to the attractiveness of the city even more. The whole experience provided a refreshing break from the grind of the normal school routine.

Sicilian Trip Photos - Brian Soh

And then for the best part: the food. I usually remember my vacations for the food, if I forget everything else...and I will never forget this trip because of the food. From “cuscusu”2 with a fish-based soup to the flavorful pesto alla siciliana3, the fluffy and sweet genovese4, the salty but scrumptious pizza trapanese, the warm and delicious a rancini5, and the heavy-sweet cannolo siciliano6, Sicily was not short of tantalizing tastes that never failed to make me swoon. In addition to all the local food that we got to taste with the group while touring around, our host family also whipped up sumptuous meals that always made me drool. I was fortunate to have a host family in which the father worked as a cook, and the mother was very good at cooking too. We had meals such as spaghetti with tuna and tomato sauce, risotto7 with sausage, and spaghetti with seafood and a type of pesto. Buonissimi.8

With the perfect learning environment we were in, it only added to the enjoyment of the initial aim of the trip: learning Italian.

With the perfect learning environment we were in, it only added to the enjoyment of the initial aim of the trip: learning Italian. With four hours of Italian classes every day, an Italian environment, and the interaction with the host family, we were basically “forced” to speak Italian for most of the day. This definitely pushed me to my limits and made me gain a lot of new vocabulary and proper ways of speaking the language after learning from native speakers. In the short period of six days, I felt that I became more eloquent and fluent in Italian while also seeing my roommates become much more fluent as well. As relaxing and paradise-like as the trip was, it had also succeeded in helping us learn and improve our Italian by leaps and bounds in less than a week.

This Academic Travel proved to be one of my best experiences at TASIS, and the allure of Sicily will always make the trip so memorable for its sheer beauty, delectable food, and rich culture.

As I sat down to write this piece, I couldn’t help but find new meaning in the song that has been running through my head since I left: “Oh Sicilia9, I’m down on my knees, I’m begging you please to come home...”

1 Welcome to Sicily.
2 The Sicilian name for cous-cous
3 A sauce made out of basil, tomatoes, pistachios, and other spices
4 A pastry made out of a soft outer crust with sweet cream on the inside; a pastry typical of Erice
5 A deep-fried rice ball sprinkled with breadcrumbs and filled with various ingredients, such as minced meat, mozzarella, rice, and peas.
6 A Sicilian pastry with thick cream in a round tube of fried pastry dough
7 An Italian dish whereby rice is cooked in a broth until it becomes creamy
8 Delicious
9 Yes, I realize it’s Cecilia, but it sounds the same.

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