Report from Sicily

So, last month I went to Sicily for a holiday/volunteer work. Here’s a little report:

After a few hours driving to the airport in Germany, and a flight of a few hours to Trapani, Sanne (the other volunteer on the same plane) and I are waiting for the bus to take us to Palermo. And from Palermo we would take a bus that would take us to the other part of the island, to Catania. The project we volunteered for was close to Catania, in a place called Biancavilla, but the cheapest flight was arriving on the other side of the island, meaning we’d have to take a few buses and travel a day to get to where we were supposed to be. With a few hours to wait between buses.  Quite original, and fun to do once or twice. After all, I can say that I’ve “crossed the island”, but next time, I’ll just take a ticket that costs a little bit more and flies straight to Catania 😛

So arriving at Catania airport by bus, Sanne and I wait for the guy from the project to come pick us up. This guy’s name is Rocco Pennisi, and he’s the son of the people who run the project. Basically, it’s a family living in the countryside that do volunteer work and do a lot for the local community. They have a volunteer organization: “Casa di Maria” (Maria’s house) and a commercial organization: “Vino di Cana, Turismo rurale” to support themselves.

Rocco drives us to Biancavilla where we meet the family and the rest of the volunteers.

The volunteers, no group photo with just the family, sorry.

For the rest and a LOT more photos, click the “Read the rest of this entry” link.

The family consist of Sergio and Carmela Pennisi (the parents), Rocco and Raffaele (the sons) and Agatha and Maria Pennisi (the daughters). There are occasionally other people staying there, mostly single mothers and their children, but right now, it’s very quiet. There has recently been a group of volunteers that did construction work (working on a new residence), and the main chores to do right now are maintaining the fields, cleaning up the vineyards, rebuilding some old crumbled walls along the road, and sanding of some wooden fences.

Building fences and listening to Raffaele playing the djembe

The work doesn’t always seem very organised, but the company is good, and the weather is rather nice and sunny too. The first days consist mostly of clearing out weeds in the vineyard.

Psycho Franziska!

She's friendly and good with kids, really... 😛

Rocco tells us about new chores that have to be done.

One thing you notice early on is that the entire floor is basically made out of rocks. There is some sand, but it’s just covering up rocks. Where I live, the ground consists of clay, so you can plow through it, but here, you’re just moving stones all the time when you plow.

After the second day (I think) they hooked me up with a brush cutter, and I’ve been wielding that most of the time. It has a head that uses a cable for cutting instead of blades. Good choice, because blades would wear out quickly on this terrain. But those plastic heads where the cable comes out from are weak, and I manage to shatter a few of them. Another thing was that I liked to cut really close to the ground, to get the area really clean, and that sends a lot of stones flying. Usually the girls work on one side of the field, and I work on the other side if I’m mowing so no one gets rocks fling at them.

one of the vineyards

Overlooking the area

On thursday (I think…) there was a school class on a fieldtrip. They had teachers that screamed at the kids all the time, they were awful.

schoolchildren and volunteers

children and their teachers

During the weekend, there were groups coming for the restaurant. But before that, we went to Taormina for a day. It’s a touristic place at the east coast of Sicily. It was fun, walked around town, went on a cableway, swam in the sea, jumped off a cliff, got stung by jellyfish, stood on a sea urchin, good times :)… The beaches on the north and east coast are supposedly rocky. Well, they were rocky in Taormina, and very slippery. It’s funny, back home, the weather isn’t all that great, and it’s not exactly known as a tropical place you imagine yourself sitting on some beach, but our beaches are actually cleaner and have nice smooth sandy shores…



"That's where we'll be swimming"

next to an overpass

Underwater scene

Underwater scene


Let's jump

halfway back

Katrien being relaxed

cableway pod

"Are we there yet?"

"Taormina greek amphitheatre"... ooow, pretty scenery.

Town square in Taormina

Back in Biancavilla, we did some more work outside. When there were people we worked in the kitchen, wondering what the hell we should do while the family is working in the kitchen, or just relax and sit in the sun outside.

Or “fight” with Maria, the youngest daughter. One morning I was outside waking up, and I did the siu nim tau form (wing tsjun kung fu). She saw this and started following the moves, trying to copy the siu nim tau. I love this form, there is just so much in it and it is sooo relaxing. Since then I’ve shown her a few pressure points from kyusho, and the few things from capoeira I know as well, and she’s been trying to copy everything. She would walk past and try to find pressure points in my arm or face or back, then when I started to “fight” back, pinch pressure points, or folding up her arms so she couldn’t pinch or punch, she began to bite playfully to get loose. So I called her a cat, and she starts to claw like a cat. Maybe it’s weird, but I thought the pressure points, the biting and the clawing, was smart and cute.

There was one single mother at the house during those two weeks, and she had a little boy who’s name is Jamal, and all the volunteer girls thought he was the cutest. Because he would be walking around, giving everyone random items, wanting to put sunscreen lotion on everyone, throwing tennis balls at you, etc. Or he would sneak up and jump on your lap or even your head when you were sitting down. That was also cute, but Maria was cuter. She should practise kung fu, so next time, I won’t stand a chance.

Jamal and Maria

Jamal and Maria

Then the last weekend we went to see the Etna, Sanne and I were brought to Catania airport to catch the bus back to Palermo, where we stayed in a youth hostel and left really early the next morning to get the bus back to the airport in Trapani. After the flight my dad was waiting at the airport, and he and I drove back home.

driving up the Etna

Franzi and the Etna

group photo on the Etna

the Etna and I


on the Etna volcano

house covered in stone from an earlier eruption

Waiting for the bus to Trapani in the morning

The end.


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