It’s been a while since I last updated this blog. My last entry was about Donald Trump and how I believed there was no way he would win. Six months on since he was elected US president, I’m still shaking my head. I remember waking up to the news and finding myself so disoriented – how can a man who openly objectifies women, was caught on video saying offensive things, had a few court cases in front of him and uses Twitter to share his delusional views about himself and his success – all of that and more – and he was voted in! While Hillary Clinton’s supporters always talk about Hillary winning by the numbers (a few more million votes than Donald Trump), the result is still the same – Donald Trump is the sitting president of THE United States.
As if that weren’t enough, he continues on to use Twitter to rile up his devotees and openly insult the free press and anyone else he doesn’t agree with. So Ivanka Trump sat in on his behalf at the G20 summit, I’d be so pissed if I worked hard all my life and the President’s daughter gets a fast-track ticket to the world of global government and politics.
There is no doubt that previous US governments have failed on many fronts but surely the country can do better than elect Trump to the highest office in the land. My heartache continues.
On to better news: I am saying hello from Sicily. I arrived here a couple of days ago, in the city of Catania. As a finance journalist, I can’t help but see it from the lens of how the European economy has languished in recent years. Yes, Catania is no Venice or Florence or Rome but it is a good gauge on how ordinary citizens are living. A lot of the buildings need a good hosing down – they look weathered and battered. I just went to the wet market in front of one of the Cathedrals and it’s full of cheap wares – reminiscent of Baclaran and Quiapo back in the Philippines.
Admittedly I chose to stay outside the tourist trail. One, because everything is cheaper outside the tourist zone and two, it gives me a different perspective of the city I’m visiting.
A cup of espresso can cost anywhere between 50 cents and 90 cents closer to the Duomo and a lunch for two can set you back as much as 45 euro just for a couple of pasta dishes, one meatball dish, a bottle of sparkling water and a bowl of bread. That’s quite exxy! At the same time, I discovered the wet market this morning and managed to buy a bag (a bag!) of tomatoes for one euro, a kilo of bananas for 99 cents, six eggs for euro, half a kilo of fresh sardines for two euro and then I swung by the local bar/cafe called Bar Stesicoro where I was surrounded by locals (yay!) and a small pastry cost 70 cents. Winning!
Yesterday, breakfast cost 8 euros just for a couple of mini pastry and two shots of espresso. This morning I had a full breakfast – eggs, tomatoes, sardines, rice, pastry and espresso – all for less than 3 euros. Yay!
There are lots of places still left to explore. A Greek ampitheatre lies just behind the apartment I’m staying at. A couple of cathedrals less than 10 minutes walk away and Garden Bellini, which looks so well-manicured from the entrance (I was running past it this morning).
From Via Santa Filomena to Via Etnea and Via Paterno, Via Umberto and several piazzas, I’ve covered a lot of ground in the space of two days. I think life here would be too much of a slow-pace for me but only an hour away, in a place called Taormina, D.H. Lawrence once stayed. He mentioned it in one of his writings. I’m not sure I’ll be able to squeeze in a visit there but it certainly easy to imagine that time ticks a little slower around here – giving you ample time to think and write.
For now, I’m enjoying being out of the rat race for a couple of weeks. I am still gobsmacked that a bag of tomatoes here cost one euro or 65 cents for a kilo! Compared to $5.99 per kilo in Sydney. It’s insane! But I guess tomatoes here is what rice is to an Asian. It’s a staple – tomato base is all over the menus!
One thing’s for sure – it’s true what the brochures say – food, wine and cheese in this part of the world is absolutely delish!