Friday, October 12, 2012

Making Waves (Facendo Le Onde)

The past months have flown by and many things have changed…the first being that I gave the English school word that I wouldn’t be renewing my contract which expired at the end of June. I came to the realization that although I was doing a decent job, teaching English really wasn’t what I was meant to do and the amount of time I was putting in wasn’t feeling worth the financial compensation. I knew someone else would be better off in that position while I’d be better off doing what I am meant to do….that is, making pretty pictures?  With that decision I booked a trip to Rome and starting researching animation studios while calling in all reinforcements- that is, information from anyone I was remotely connected with, who had some knowledge of the animation studios in Rome.  

I had a few email responses from studios who were eager to meet me, and after staying up all night arranging my portfolio and packing, the last weekend in May I was off to the airport again. I received word last minute from my friend that I wouldn’t be able to stay at her place, so I landed in at a hostel near termini station to drop my bags before heading to my first appointment. The power was out at the studio’s building near the Vatican that day, so they were a bit disorganized, but I was relieved that they offered to speak to me in English as I was super tired from staying up all night. They liked my work and were excited that I was Canadian, as they said they were currently looking into setting up a sister studio in Canada. They said they would let me know when they had work available, which I would be able to do freelance from Palermo, as the majority of their artists worked out of house. 

This freelance system was the same at the other 2 studios I visited too. I had actually thought that if I found work, it would be necessary to move to Rome and work in house, which I was prepared to do as I really liked Rome and figured I’d be better off gaining a new experience there rather than continuing to give English lessons in Palermo. However, this solution served me even more. I could stay in Palermo and pay cheap rent, live by the sea, and make good money from doing a job I’m experienced at. And this is what happened as I got REALLY lucky to show up to a studio at the perfect time for a great project.

I ended up with a week-long contract, to do a storyboard for a short cartoon which would be on a DVD for the ‘Zecchino D’Oro’ which is very famous in Italy as all the kids grow up watching these music video type cartoons which accompany a child’s voice singing. This particular cartoon they needed help with was about a little girl turtle, who wanted to dance the rumba, but couldn’t because her shell was too heavy and she was too slow. It was the perfect gig for me and I was stoked that the director was giving me complete freedom on it.  It was also great to be working on something in Italian and dealing with the director and other staff completely in Italian, on top of it, the week contract would pay the amount of money I earn in 2 months at the English school. After that, I knew for sure I’d made the right choice to give up teaching English. 

For the rest of the weekend in Rome, I hung out with my friend, Sally (the same Sally from my last post in Florence), as well I met up with Ombretta, my roommate Marco’s friend (also from my last post), and she introduced me to her Sicilian friend, Michele. He taught me how to buy fish in Sicilian dialect and gave me a ride back to my hostel on his motorcycle, but not without an evening motorcycle tour of Rome first. It was absolutely incredible, such a different and non touristy way to experience Rome! I also met up with, Federico, the cute guy Kelly and I met in Milan, and Sally and I partied with him and his friends in Trastevere, the night-life neighborhood.

It was an amazing trip and I was so amazed that things worked out so well. Upon getting home, I dove right into my week’s worth of storyboarding, which was a bit intense as I was still teaching English that week, as well as attending a promotional event with the school one day. But I managed it and the director told me I was an angel who fell from the sky, as they were really in a pinch being that he was tied up with other things and they didn’t have anyone else qualified to work on the project.
An image I made for the english school 

One evening after salsa class, a friend and fellow salsa dancer, Giulio, who’s also an avid kite surfer, invited me to meet his surfer friends who were skateboarding behind the courthouse. It was a really cool atmosphere and there were a few girls playing volleyball while the guys were cruising around on their skateboards. They encouraged me to give the skateboard a try, and once I got the feel for it, it was so relaxing, I was hooked. 

From there started the weekly ‘Tuesday skateboard night’ and I was a regular from then on, even though I had a few nasty spills (is 28 too old to learn how to skateboard?). I also started bringing my Frisbee and sometimes people brought snacks for everyone. The guys were teasing me, asking when they were going to get to taste some Canadian sweets, so the next week I made some cookies with maple syrup. They were gluten free and I had experimented a bit with tapioca pearls since I couldn’t find any tapioca flour, and as a result there were some little chunks in them. So I called them ‘Moose Poo’. I think everybody remembered me after that:)
 Check out my stylish appearance in this skateboarding vid
Marco and I had signed up for the base course at the surf school, which consisted of 6 lessons in total, and we’d get a call once a month or so from Danilo, the instructor, when the waves were arriving. Marco and I would jump on his vespa and ride about a half an hour to Isola Delle Femmine (Island of the Females), the surfing beach. Carla, a girl my age, also joined our group for the lessons. After the hour and a half lesson, Danilo would let us continue on our own for as long as we wanted, so often we were out there for 3-4 hours. You’re always left with the urge for just one more ride!

One Friday evening in mid-June, I went with my new friend, Claudia, who I met through the conversation exchange website before discovering that Marco knew her, to an end of the year dance show of a prestigious contemporary dance school in Palermo. We were both in awe and the videographer, a man we’d met randomly the week before, introduced us to the director, who encouraged us both to dance with her the following year. 

After the show we decided to join Marco and his friends in the Vucceria, a neighborhood in the historic center of Palermo, which transformed from a fish market during the day, to a party area at night. The fish smell lingered but maybe because of it, drinks were cheap and the crowd was alternative. Claudia took me to get a glass of the local wine called ‘sangue’ (which means blood….this results in lots of vampire jokes) for 1 Euro, and on the way out, I ran into a student from the English school, Salvo.

 The vucceria in daytime

I’d only officially taught him once, and passed him to the next level despite giving him a hard time for not finishing the exercises in his workbook, but we’d also chatted about our bikes a few times at the bike rack in front of the school. So it was fun to see him away from the school environment and we discovered we had a lot more to talk about as he was a surfer and also liked painting. 

Claudia had to take off and after that, talking turned into dancing as a dj had started playing in the piazza. Maybe it was the sangue or the busy crowd, or both, but neither Salvo nor I noticed that as we were dancing, that someone unzipped my purse hanging from my shoulder. I turned around to see a guy disappearing through the crowd. SHIT. 

I looked down to see my purse open and quickly noticed the absence of my cell phone. I looked through the rest of it’s contents and fortunately my bank cards and cash were still in the side pocket, so being that it was such a fast robbery the guy had only grabbed my cell phone. 

It’s too bad because it wasn’t even a great cell phone! But it was great to me because it had a panoramic camera feature that I loved, as well as the stored phone numbers, and photos and videos from dinner after the last day of Salsa class. I was a little upset but convinced to make the best of the night anyway. That we did, as I ended up getting home just after sunrise. I think that might’ve been the first time in my life I’d ever done that…

The next day I woke up pretty early and headed to Wind, my cell phone company, to figure out how to deal with the situation. After that I tried to sleep a bit more with little success before heading out to catch a ride to do a performance with my belly dancing group. Despite not paying the extra funds necessary to take part in the theatre show that they did, the teacher asked me last minute if I wanted to fill in for someone who couldn’t make it to another performance they were doing in a festival in a nearby town called Carini. I said sure! And I borrowed the costumes from the other student. 

Despite one pair of pants being way too short, I was happy to be involved, and also got to model an elaborate Turkish style dress during the fashion show segment. There were a ton of awesome performers so despite my grogginess I enjoyed it all. Afterwards I caught a ride home with Desiree`, my roommate, and her boyfriend, Gaspare, who came to watch, and I hit the pillow hard. 

After my last day at work at the English school, on June 27 I was off again! This time for a quick double trip, to Florence and Rome. My cuz, Martinho, was back in Florence for a short time between finishing his painting workshops in Canada and heading to his place in Portugal for the rest of the summer, so I decided it’d be a good opportunity to visit him, and meet a friend of his who helped me out with some information on animation studios in Rome, and a friend of HIS, who also helped me out (as I said I really called in reinforcements). Another reason for the trip was to see an exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi, including many pieces by one of my favorite painters, John Singer Sargent. 

I arranged to stay at a friend of Marco’s, who had stayed at our place in Palermo a few months prior and had offered to return the favor if I ever needed a place to stay in Florence. Andrea, a Brazilian woman studying fashion at Polimoda, was so super sweet and left me the keys to her place at the coffee shop across the street as her and her husband were planning on getting in late that day from a trip to Slovenia. We had some nice breakfasts and great conversations altogether, and one day I even showed Andrea my samba moves. She was quite impressed:)

 I showed them my portfolio and children’s book and they were both really positive and encouraging. Before I left to catch my train on the final day, I drew them a little caricature thank-you card, which was really just a scribble, but they loved so much, they scanned it and put it on facebook, and Andrea said her husband even wanted to frame it, haha!

My first stop was in Empoli, a town near Florence where my friends Alison and Rob live. They made us an amazing lunch and we had lots to catch up on. I was able to meet up with my old pal, Daniele, to watch Italy play in the European cup, but first we went for a fancy aperitivo on a hotel terrace. We watched the game at 3 different locations in the city, starting at Piazza Ognissanti, to the beach at San Nicolo`, and ended up at Piazzale Michelangelo, buzzing from one place to the other on his motorino. It was amazing watching the crowds explode when Italy scored the goals against Germany. 

I also met up with Valentina, my old Italian tutor turned friend, and we caught up in the usual place, Piazza Santo Spirito, where we sat down to enjoy some amazing and free performances, including live music, puppets, and dancing. Friday I went to the Sargent exhibit and left super inspired, then trekked up to the comic school to meet Silvano, an animation and storyboarding teacher who’d provided me with a ton of information about the studios in Rome. The school was in the final weeks of courses, so I patiently waited for him to finish a lesson to get in a quick conversation with him and thank him face to face for the help.

From there I headed to Martinho’s place. His friend, Mathias, had invited us to his villa outside of Florence that evening for an aperitivo on the terrace….whaaaaat!??? We took the bus out of the city and Mathias picked us up from there. When we pulled up at the villa, I felt like I was watching an old Italian movie, it was AMAZING; huge old, partly crumbly, with a big gate, and tons of plants and trees surrounding. He walked us through the grounds around to the back of the villa where his apartment entrance was and gave us a tour through the house, leading to…..the terrace. It had an amazing view with the duomo and the tower of palazzo vecchio in the distance. There were tears in my eyes, it was so incredible. 
Other friends showed up, including Martinho’s friend, Lucio, who’s a comic book artist and also a teacher at the comic school, who had referred me to Silvano when I emailed him to ask if he knew any animation studios in Rome. It was great to meet him as he’d been super helpful, not just in this regard. Martinho had told me he was a surfer and spends part of the year in Bali working and surfing, so when I’d first contacted him regarding animation/art information back in March, I couldn’t help mentioning something about surfing, especially because surfing in Italy isn’t something that many people know about. He sent me a website with the surfing beaches in Sicily and from there I found the one closest to Palermo, and after a fair bit of internet digging, I found information about the surf school!

So I couldn’t quite express the extent of my appreciation. At the same time I was slightly intimidated as I’d seen videos of him painting on the internet….whoa!!!!! And as I’d also witnessed in the videos, he was super handsome. We all drank and ate the evening away, and as things were wrapping up, Lucio offered a ride back to Florence on his motorcycle. I accepted. We met Martinho and his friend back in Piazza Santo Spirito and hung out some more in front of a bar, so packed that getting a drink was impossible. After things started shutting down there, Lucio dropped me off at Andrea’s apartment, and I tried to thank him again for all his help, to which he replied in the typical Italian way ‘di niente’ (it’s nothing), and told me to keep in touch. 

At the top floor of the palazzo, I put the key in the door, ready to tip toe in so as not to wake them up….but the chain on the other side restrained the door from opening all the way. Crap, somebody had forgotten that I’d be sneaking in later. I sat on the stairs for a few minutes thinking of what to do….it was after 3 in the morning. Should I call Martinho? I knew he didn’t have space at his place and plus I had to catch the train to Rome fairly early in the morning….so I came to the conclusion of the only thing I could do. I felt so bad. Ding dong….ding dong….dingdongdingdongdingdong. Andrea finally unlocked the door with half opened eyes while she apologized that she hadn’t realized she’d put the chain on out of habit and I apologized for waking her up. We laughed about it in the morning. 

I was in Rome by mid-day and had arranged to visit the studio for whom I’d done the storyboard the month prior. They showed me the development of the project, which was looking good despite being vastly behind schedule. As well, the director showed me a project they were anticipating in the future, for which he would want my help on. 

The following day I went to visit Cinecitta`, the famous film studio where many Italian films were shot. I didn’t know exactly what to expect but it was cool seeing costumes worn by some of my favorite old Italian actors, as well as props from Fellini films, and other film sets. Regrettably, my flight back to Palermo that evening was scheduled at the exact time when the final match between Italy and Spain was happening for the European cup. I really wanted to join my friend amongst the massive crowd in Circo Massimo for the chaos but had to head for the airport instead. I guess I didn’t miss out too much in the end as the victory was taken by spain and the Italians were very distraught. 

Back in Palermo, it was July, and I was super inspired from my trip to get to work on my paintings, but my focus didn’t last too long as I received an email about a job prospect for an animation studio in Ireland. Although I often get emails about freelance projects in Canada, I don’t bother applying as I know that without Ontario residency, I’m not able to work for the studios in Toronto. However, as I’ve got Italian citizenship, I can work for any country in the EU without a problem. 

They had me do a storyboard test before deciding to offer the contract, so I put in a few days of work and sent it off, waiting to see how their decision would effect the rest of my summer. Sure enough, the offer was on the table and although I was a bit disappointed as my friend from Toronto, Alex, was coming to visit me during the period which the contract would be going on, I knew I couldn’t refuse it as the money was too good. 

So I awaited the start date….but it came and went, as did many more days, while each day I was assured tomorrow, tomorrow by the studio…..until the material finally arrived a week late. Well, the day after it arrived I was off on a little pre-scheduled weekend getaway to a nearby island, about 2 hours from Palermo on the ferry, called Ustica. So I at least put the pdf file of the script on my phone so I could read it and start visualizing my game plan while I enjoyed my trip. 

The trip was organized by Tiziana, my ex- coworker and friend from the English school, and the others were her friends, Marina and Dario, and Al, a teacher at the English school from England, who had also become my bestie in Palermo over the past couple months. We often went out for drinks, and rode our bikes to the beach. He’d carry my air mattress on his back and even blow it up when we got there, even though he wasn’t interested in using it except for the odd game to see if I could knock him off of it. In exchange I put spf 60 sunscreen on his white, white, back while he made jokes. 

 A friend commented that this photo of Al and I looks like a movie poster

Once we even got robbed at the beach, 10 euros each….plus my phone. I was prepared to go through the process of dealing with a stolen phone again, but by some miracle, a man ended up returning it to me later that night. He’d found it nearby the beach where it was stolen (the thief must have abandoned it, maybe because it was in English and he couldn’t unlock it?) and when I called the phone later on, this man answered and drove back down from Palermo to return it to me. So lucky!!!! 

Al and I also did some touristy things together, including going to Monreale to see the gold mosaics in the church, and to the Modern art gallery, where we ran into a student whose Dad worked there and ended up reimbursing our tickets. Despite our mutual urge to integrate into Italian society, it’s been amazing having someone to talk to in English, who relates to the whole experience of it all, and someone to confide in and laugh with.  

Ustica was another adventure as we’d all brought our bikes along. Mine was the only one without gears so my legs were shaking riding up some of the steep hills on the rocky island, but we managed to ride around the entire circumference, stopping at different beaches along the way. We stayed at an ‘agriturismo’ (this might be translated as ‘farm tourism’ and are basically accommodations in someone’s rural property) just outside of the little town, and we had fun cooking (or mostly watching Tiziana cook in her bikini) a pasta dinner in the outdoor kitchen. We also had a great seafood lunch the second day at a little restaurant in the town. I got stung by a jellyfish on my hand while swimming in the sea the first day. It felt all stingy and tingley. Some people nearby told me to pee on it, so I found a sheltered spot between the rocks and got to it. It was all better after that.
Tizi and I playing with the sea urchins

Back in Palermo I got down to business, working as hard as I could for the next 2 weeks to get the roughs done so I could take a few days off when Alex showed up for her visit. I was so, so, so happy to see her when I met her in Piazza Politeama. She was ready to collapse after weeks of Italian adventures and a sleepless night in Venice before boarding her plane to Palermo, but we went to eat and I talked her ear off until her eyes couldn’t stay open any more. It worked out well that she needed a day of rest, and I needed to finish off the roughs and send them to the director before starting out on our little 4 day Sicilian getaway the following day. 

First stop was Catania, a 2.5 bus ride east to Sicily’s second largest city, known for being the place to party due to the large number of university students who live there. After arriving at our hostel we went straight to the beach, but as would become our pattern, we arrived late afternoon, like 5pm. But it was beautiful and despite wishing we’d arrived earlier, we enjoyed the evening sun. That evening we went to a restaurant recommended by the hostel worker, and we were so glad we took his advice. It was an amazing meal, a bit alternative, and super cheap. 

From there we were off to find the nightlife. To make a long story short, we ended up at a beachside nightclub, but we slowly came to realize it wasn’t your average party going on. The place was at least 80% men, and they seemed straight at first. But they weren’t…………totally. It was a bisexual party but at least everybody liked dancing! This experience has led Alex to theorize that all Italian men are bisexual as at one point she asked a couple of guys dancing together if they were straight and they said yes. But an hour later they were making out. I think we’ll be laughing about that night for a long time. 

The next day we peeled ourselves out of bed at check-out time and went for a quick tour of Catania, snapping pictures from our seats on the tourist train, well worth our 5 Euro to see the main sites while sitting down. 

From there we were off to Taormina, a very picturesque town to the north. Thankfully we were able to find affordable beds in a hostel, as the city is quite expensive due to it’s high volume of tourists. After getting settled our first stop was once again the beach, arriving regrettably late in the afternoon. It was a bit of a trek to the free beach area, as most of the coastline was occupied by ‘lidi’ which are pay to enter beachside resorts.

Asking for direction to the hostel

We were pretty exhausted and had a little nap in the sun. At one point, half conscious, I heard a man’s voice comment in Italian to his friend that he liked the view. The friend agreed and I heard a few camera snaps and snickers. When we woke up later I asked Alex about it, and she said there were a couple guys parked a little unnecessarily close to us. I think the view they were commenting on and snapping pictures of was our behinds, haha. Well, at least they didn’t try to rob us while we were sleeping. 

We enjoyed a great dinner before walking through the pretty streets, stopping for a drink at a stylish bar where we heard there was dancing later on. We were so tired though that we couldn’t wait it out anymore and decided to crash instead. Afterall, we still had the rest of our trip ahead of us.

The next day we were off to Siracusa, Syracuse in english, known as a historical city from the time of the ancient Greeks. We arrived on a Sunday during siesta (the afternoon break) so maybe that’s partly why, but we both felt immediately upon walking through the city, a slow, magical, eerie kind of energy. We couldn’t really figure it out but it was explained later that as the historical part of the city is located on a small island, it has water flowing under it, and hence carries this type of ‘watery’ energy. Maybe that sounds like fluff but there’s also a freshwater spring located on this tiny island; apparently something that doesn’t usually happen.  However the city was really beautiful and of course, we were on the way to the sea. In this case, the closest place wasn’t a sandy beach, but instead a platform connected to the historic center, leading to rocky entrances into the water. 

That night, we sat down to a late dinner at a place recommended by the hostel owner. As this recommendation was accompanied by almost a half an hour of swooning about a specific seafood pasta dish, Alex was convinced to try it. After a few bites, she reported, well I’m disappointed, after all that poetry that’s not at all what I was expecting. It’s pasta with olive oil and mussels, I don’t get Italian food! As she’s used to the strong flavors and abundance of garlic used in Bulgarian cuisine, authentic Italian food (which is often super simple) was a bit under-stimulating. I couldn’t help but laugh later on when, upon his questioning, she tried to explain to the chef what she thought of Italian food. 

We were the last people to finish eating that night and when the chef’s friend showed up, they invited to take us to a club. Our most important question being, was there dancing? The answer was yes so off we went. The place was totally empty, but Alex busted out some of her samba moves and I followed along (she’d been teaching me how to samba in Toronto before I left for Italy in 2010). The chef was flashing cash around in an effort to impress Alex, and after a bit of special treatment from the club owners and a trip to the bathroom with his friend, we exchanged the idea that this guy wasn’t just dealing in the food industry if you know what I mean. He confirmed this personally later on. Don’t worry mom, we got ourselves home safe and sound after that.

On day 4 we were thrilled to get some wheels of our own from a bicycle rental shop, and carted them on the train with us to Noto, a small town to the south of Siracusa. It was a super hot day and we sweated out everything we had, riding up the roads of the hilly town to the B & B we’d reserved. After a little freshening up, the owner, Davide, gave us directions to the beach. He told us it’d take about 20 minutes on the bikes.
So we started out but it wasn’t long before we were in doubt over which street to take, so we stopped to ask directions beneath the blazing sun. 

We repeated this two more times before finally arriving at the beach, at least 45 minutes later, completely exhausted and overheated. We were so relieved to finally plunge ourselves into the sea. We were at a quiet spot where the water was immaculate and clear. We agreed to relax and enjoy ourselves completely before even starting to think how we were going to make it back to the B & B.  We had covered a fair amount of hills on the way there, most of them downhill. So that meant the way back would mostly be…yes, uphill. 

After a few hours we asked around about a bus back to the town and were informed of the time and place. As for the bikes, our source said that there was plenty of room underneath as it was a coach style bus. Perfect. We enjoyed a bit more time at the sea and ate the freshest and sweetest melon ever, instigating envious gazes from people walking by. Back at the bus stop, a large crowd gathered, and finally a bus showed up, but was it the right bus? It was like a mini school bus….. We watched the people pile in and I asked the bus driver who confirmed it was the last bus back to Noto. I asked if there was room for the bikes and he gestured to the crammed cabin…clearly not.

Alex and I weighed our options, but in the end, it was best to suck it up and start the ride. At least the sun wasn’t blazing as hard as before. The people on the bus stared at us sympathetically through the window as it rolled by, and we pedaled our hearts out, feeling like champions when we finally pulled up into the main piazza. Funny enough, the bus was unloading at the same moment we pulled up. Thorough showers were needed before dinner and despite an invitation to go out with Davide, we called it a night super early.

The next day we were back to Siracusa to return the bikes and went for another quick dip from the city platform before getting on the bus to head home to Palermo. The next few days were a more relaxed pace, sight-seeing in Palermo and riding to Mondello (the beach) with Al and FINALLY getting a whole day of sunshine. It’s funny how sometimes you go searching for the thing you have right at home. 

It was an awesome trip and I was happy to be saying to Alex, see you in a few weeks! as I’d soon be passing through Toronto on my way to Alberta. I was working hard core after that for the next couple weeks, and despite my best efforts to stay balanced, the stress was getting to me and starting to instigate some of my old health issues. On my breaks sometimes I went for a walk with my skateboarding friend, Lucio, who had just had ankle surgery and needed to get in his daily exercise. It was nice to have company although neither of us were feeling particularly positive:S On Ferragosto, the infamous Italian holiday on Aug 15, we jetted down to Mondello on his vespa to watch the fireworks. 

I finished the project less than a week prior to my departure to Canada and was so relieved. After staying up most of the night to rename over 1200 files by hand and sending it all off along with the invoice, I went straight to the beach and soaked up some sea and sun to recharge before catching up with Al in the Vucceria that evening, as he had just gotten back from a trip home to the uk. 

The next day I was set on going to the Conca D’Oro, the newest mall located on the outskirts of Palermo to scope out some birthday presents for my sisters. The website listed the hours for the shuttle bus to and from the center, and I set out to catch the one at 4:35pm, although it never showed up. I asked a city bus worker about it and he instructed me on how to get there with city transit. Over an hour later I finally arrived, and cruised through the stores, focusing on my mission, but didn’t come across anything I was looking for. I continued to browse until it was getting close to the departure of the final shuttle bus, and went to the info desk to find out where to catch it. 

However, the lady told me the last shuttle bus had already left. I referred to the poster with the bus times posted all over the mall, and she told me that on Saturday they ended early. She said she could call another shuttle service for me if I needed, but I told her I’d see if I could get the city bus first. I waited at the stop with a number of other people for a good 45 minutes before I gave up and went back to the info desk. But the lady had finished work. Luckily I had internet access on my phone and found the number for the shuttle service she was talking about. I called, but they said the earliest they could come was 11pm. It was currently 9pm. 

I reluctantly pulled up the number for a taxi company, knowing it wouldn’t be cheap as we were a fair ways out of the center. Thinking of what else I could do…I decided to send my friend, Salvo, a text message, as I knew he lived nearby. It wasn’t long before he pulled up in his 1970’s purple volkswagon van and the rest of the night was a spontaneous adventure. 

First we went to Mondello for some gelato and crashed the dance floor at a beach-side bar before going for a swim and hanging out by the water. We went for a walk, dancing to the various music blaring from the beach-side venues along the way and then jumped back in his van, heading to the Vucceria for a cheap cocktail and cheap cocktail-induced dancing. It was funny because while I was working on the storyboarding project and forced to stay seated in my computer chair, I was wishing to release all the energy that was building inside of me with some chaotic dancing when I was done, and at a certain moment, I think when my cocktail was accidentally slapped out of my hand and I didn’t care, I realized I got my wish:)

The last week of August, the waves finally arrived and I was lucky enough to go surfing two days in a row. Marco was in Columbia so it was just Carla and I. The first day the waves were too big and the second day, too small, but we had a great time and some decent rides nonetheless. Two days later, I was off to Canada and the rash on my knees from the surf board stayed with me for the first couple weeks of the trip, making me smile whenever I caught sight of it. 

There was no time in Toronto for jet lag despite a 24 hour journey preceded by a sleepless night. It was September long weekend and I basically hit the ground partying. Deanna, a friend from college who was visiting from San Francisco, and I were both guests at Alex’s apartment. It also happened to be Deanna’s 30th birthday. Her birthday night started as a normal night dancing in a club, but turned into a crazy night with a female midget and a party bus. We saw both the Saturday and Sunday morning sunrise, but we caught up on sleep in between as well as biked through the city and ate some good food. During the week I was able to get down to a bit of business involving a meeting for a project and catching up with a number of friends. 

Back to the airport to go west to Alberta, I was greeted by my mamma in the airport who drove me back home to Drumheller and caught me up on everything while I marveled at the sunset over the prairies. I had a few days of rest and visits with my sisters, dad, and grandparents before it was time to party again, this time with the girls for my sister Amy’s stagette! We had a blast between all the events planned, including cruising in the limo and tearing up the dance floor.

With my sisters
Back in Drumheller I kept busy going for hikes, shooting hoops, going to my friend Kelly’s dance classes and to my mom’s zumba class. I spent the weekend in Calgary at Amy’s, hanging out and going out dancing. I celebrated my 29th birthday twice, first with the family the day before and then with Kelly in Calgary. Two days later it was wedding weekend and all of Amy’s planning over the past many months fell together. The big day was accompanied by the sun, perfect for the outdoor ceremony and Amy and Darryl looked beyond happy as it all became official. At the reception, my favorite part was when Darryl charged Amy like a bull for the garter toss.

On my birthday with Kelly

There were many familiar faces including my friend, Cass, hired as the makeup artist, and my old school friend, Sara, the florist. I was also able to see my friend, Jill, in from Vancouver for a wedding that same weekend for a quick brunch and big hugs, the day after the wedding.  

My last week in Alberta, I helped my sis Laura paint flowers in her soon to be baby’s room, went with my sis Alison to a yoga class, and helped my mom clean out some kitchen cupboards in anticipation of her renos. As it always does, the time flew by and I had to say my goodbyes, for the first time not knowing the next time I’d be home. There was snow on the sides of the road on the way to the airport and my mom reported to me afterwards that shortly after my plane had taken off there was a storm. I guess I left at the right time.

Back to Toronto on an early flight, I made it downtown in time for my friend’s hip hop class and then hung out with my fellow surf-loving friend, Olga. The next day I caught up with Firas over lunch and dropped in at an animation studio where I used to work to say hi and remind them I’m still alive should they need freelance work without the requirement of residency papers…. 

Another project meeting, a few more familiar faces, a day on Toronto island and the sale of my paintings in exchange for a wetsuit (that maybe sounds weird, long story), and it was the weekend again.
Friday night salsa and saturday night I filled in for a friend of Alex’s to dance with her at a club on the mini side stages, for which we each earned 150$. It was perfect as I needed to pay 75$ in access baggage the next day at the airport. Alex and her boyfriend dropped me off and I gave her a big hug and thanked her for all the hospitality. Now that she’s seen my home in Italy, she understands why I like it so much. 

Despite having 2 chairs to spread out on on the plane, I wasn’t able to sleep and showed up in Palermo rather disoriented. However upon seeing the sea outside of the airport doors and breathing in the moist air, I was snapped out of it and was smiling. The bus driver inquired what was in my oversize luggage bag and I told him it was a snowboard. He asked where I was planning to use it as there wasn’t any snow. I told him I know people who snowboard on Mount Etna (a volcano near Catania) in the winter, and he smiled and shook his head saying again that there wasn’t any snow. Apparently it isn’t common knowledge. Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing it for myself.

The view of the sea from the airport terrace

Al met me at the bus stop and helped me cart the now ripped up snowboard bag to my house while I wheeled my big suitcase. I got a bit freshened up and we went for a coffee to catch up before he had to go into work. Back at the house, Marco showed up after work and we caught up for a bit, but I reached a point where I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore and had to crash. 

My sleep pattern remains to be wacky but I made it for Tuesday night skateboarding with my friend, Claudia, where I brought everyone chocolate loonies and ‘the source’ stickers with the Canadian flag on them. One of the guys informed me of waves the next day so Marco and I made it out for a couple hours of surfing. The waves were the perfect size this time and we had some nice rides.

It’s still hot enough out to surf without a wetsuit and there are still many people suntanning on the shore, but I’m looking forward to when a little extra insulation is necessary because my new wetsuit makes me feel like a superhero:)