Travel Journal

Palermo, Sicily, 11/10-11/13

(Tuesday 16 November 2010) by Joanne Chang
Oh, Palermo -- Boisterous street markets, unpretentious Italians, and lots of testosterone. Quite the opposite of Ortigia, Palermo is a busy, noisy, lively, place, to the point of being hectic. Cars honking, music blaring, scooters above the law and street vendors abound. I like it though. It's real Italy (though it used to be Greece), it keeps me on my toes and puts me in uncomfortable places, and I am a happy girl there. My most intense experience is at the Ballaro market, which takes up several winding streets -- it's huge and chaotic, with people everywhere shouting and trying to be heard while scooters whip around crowds on narrow old streets. Half of the shouting is at me. I am not imagining this. As soon as I walk by a fish guy or meat guy starts shouting and staring right at me, smiling when I acknowledge him and shouting louder when I don't. Eyes everywhere are scanning me up and down and it's a sunny day so I'm in a tank top and skirt with tights (good call on the tights), and at one point I put my sweatshirt on despite the sunny weather to shut them up. It works, and I thank myself for intentionally nixing the white flowy skirt that morning. It's not until the end of my trip that I also realize I'm the only Asian person walking around. This is what happens when you grow up in upper middle-class midwest -- you are so used to looking different from everyone else, you forget it has any meaning.

Fresh seafood from Capo market!  Palermo Sicily
Fresh seafood from Capo market! Palermo Sicily
My two days in Palermo go something like this: Exploring street markets in the morning/early afternoon, eyes wide, eating fresh raw seafood out of paper cones while dodging scooters and getting pooped on by a bird (this only happened one of the days); followed by a massage in the late afternoon (the perfect respite, a tranquil day spa); followed by dinner at the flat prepared by hers truly, a DVD on my mac and a glass of wine. Mmmmperfect. My first day there I also go on a yoga mat hunt, and have to walk pretty far to find one but I do! I'm all smiles about this, surprising even myself. After the yoga mat I run smack into a Blockbuster Video (a bit out of place here), buy 3 DVDs for 5 euros and yay yay yay, English entertainment. So, Palermo for me was perfect. I found a way to explore and be quiet, to be a tourist on my terms. Did you know that a bird who poops on you is supposed to bring good luck? I believe it.
Marina, Palermo Sicily
Marina, Palermo Sicily

Boarding a flight to Rome now, I'm there for 10+ days, staying in Trastevere with Francesco, a guy who rents out a room in his flat ("don't worry, I'm gay", he told me). If all goes well I'll be signing a very important document there, celebrating and grieving, and thankful.


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