Tag Archives: Sicily

A Mixed Bag: Runner Lauren Fleshman, Running Gear, Thoughtful Consumerism, and Mt. Etna

Lauren Fleshman is my new running inspiration. She wrote this amazing opening post in her new column on Runner’s World.

I’m checking out her company Picky Bars; and the company who sponsors her, Oiselle. The Oiselle brand seems geared to elite women runners, or women with the body type of elite women runners. For example, their running bras don’t provide support for anyone over a C cup (that’s me). If you’re searching for a great sports bra and you’ve got some great body to work with, check out Moving Comfort’s Fiona model, I love it.

I’ve recently been struggling with my spending choices – the Bangladesh factory collapse reminds me why I avoid consumption of mass-made goods as much as possible. Yet, a lot of my running gear, including specialized running fuels, are part of that mass-made industry. I’m still struggling with that one – if you have insights or recommendations, hit me up in the comments.

I am contacting Picky Bars for the details on where they buy the ingredients for their gluten-free, dairy-free, preservative-free bars, I’ll let you know what I hear. The ingredient list includes which ingredients are certified organic (it’s most of them), but as my good friend Megan recently reminded me – the organic certification does not indicate anything about the labor practices of a farm, orchard, or other food-producing entity.

Oiselle puts these details right out there on their FAQ page:
“Where is your apparel made?
Everything you see on our website was designed and tested by real women athletes in Seattle Washington. 80% of the spring 2013 line is USA made! The other 20% is responsibly manufactured elsewhere. Each product page will tell you where that particular product was made.”
My brief shopping experience brought up several pairs of running shorts made in china and all the t-shirts I clicked on made in the usa. Neither ensures great labor practices, but the usa is a better bet.

Otherwise, enjoy this photo from Mt. Etna’s most recent eruption, last night:
April 27, 2013
Mt. Etna Eruption
Acireale, Sicily
from our terrace

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Get out the door: Where to Run in Sicily

Running in Sicily is a lot like running in the U.S., except when it’s not. First, you have to decide where to run: by the sea? up the mountain? in the river valley?

By the sea:

Very few established paths, and none that link up to create a run of a distance over 6 miles, unless you drive down to the beaches south of Catania. For me, I either have to run down the mountain to the sea (which means running back UP the mountain on the return), or drive up or down the coast to reach the sea.

Up the Mountain:

Great options, as long as I am willing to work for the views…I can go for miles and miles and never get bored with Mt. Etna on the west always beckoning me higher and the Ionian Sea on the east flirting and winking at me until I return home.

In the river valley:

This essentially means running on base or near base to me. Both options are great – on base, there is a loop that can be modified to make a 5-mile, 6-mile, or 7-mile loop. Running along the highway by base is pretty much an out-and-back situation, at least of the routes I know now. On the weekend mornings, there are always packs of bicycles whizzing by and giving friendly encouragement; umbrella girls dot the highway; and Italian drivers whiz by as well.

I find running on the roads here to be slightly more nerve-wracking than in the states, but only by a fraction, and part of that might be due to my perception of safety.

Drivers in the U.S. go out of their way to show you that they see you:

US Drivers_Running

Drivers on Sicily are typically very aware of their surroundings, including just how close they can get to any other object without striking it (the narrow roads, and closely parked cars offer lots of opportunities to learn this lesson), so they don’t bother getting so far away from you:

Sicilian Drivers_Running1

Sincerely, I am more comfortable with a Sicilian driver passing me so close that I could reach out and touch the vehicle. For all the pazzo (crazy) in the driving over here, Sicilian drivers act predictably and they are much more aware of their surroundings and aware of the size and capability of their vehicle than the average U.S. driver. But, it took some getting used to!

As I adjusted to the Sicilian drivers, I became more comfortable on the roads, by the sea, up the mountain and in the river valley. And, as Jenny Barringer Simpson says, “If you just give yourself a chance and get out the door, your mind and body will surprise you most of the time.”

Happy running!

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In Gear Career Sigonella

In Gear Career is a non-profit created by military spouses to benefit career-minded military spouses by promoting military spouses’ professional development and employment.  Recently, I partnered with military and civilian spouses in Sigonella to stand up a local In Gear Career chapter.  The idea sparked with my Wittenberg Weiner Consulting (WWC) supervisor almost immediately when I began work in late 2011.  She and I chatted about ideas, set schedules for connecting with the national In Gear Career director, and ultimately brought together like-minded colleagues and professional acquaintances to kick-off a local Sigonella chapter.  Here’s a little more of that story…
in gear logo
After we arrived at our most recent duty station in Sigonella, Italy (Sicily), I struggled with unemployment as a military spouse; I was talking with people on the ground at Sigonella, and I often heard the rumor that the chances of finding professional employment were slim to none.  Writing a daily blog offered me a rhythm to fall back on as I searched for employment, so I started The Cinquecento Project. Oh sure, I also used it as a way to keep in touch with my mom; a way to share travel stories with my friends and family; and a way to share food experiences with my foodie friends.  Yet, the commitment I made in August 2011 to an activity that required me to create a product on a daily basis also provided me the mental and intellectual stimulation that I was missing.

Luckily for me, opportunity and preparation met up and I gained a job with WWC after two months in Sigonella. I specifically mention ‘opportunity’ because the Sigonella rumors are not based in hyperbole; there are not enough opportunities available for all of the spouses who are qualified to perform and also interested in performing professional work in Sigonella. Thus, timing and luck are unfortunately a key part of finding a professional opening here. Yet, timing and luck are also a key part of finding any job, even in CONUS (Continental United States).

I also mention preparation because I had been networking, revising my resume, and staying on top of my interview skills since April 2011. That preparation led to my resume landing in the right person’s hands; it led to me being prepared to talk about myself professionally during an impromptu phone interview when “the right person” called me out of the blue; and it led to me using my intimate knowledge of my employment and volunteer history to provide evidence that I had the knowledges, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that the position required. Even for a contractor in the government workplace, this is important. If I were applying for a Government Services (GS) position, being able to express my history in terms of KSAs is even more important. Just because I lived through my employment and volunteer experiences, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I would have been able to communicate my history to the job description on the spot. This is where preparation is key. I have been under-prepared in the past, and it has hurt me. Fortunately, my preparation paid off and I have been employed as a contractor since October 2011.

My employment led to standing up the local chapter of In Gear Career because of the incredible people I met along the way. All the members of our contracting team are also enthusiastic In Gear Career members, and we all bring different passions to the group. The intersection of those passions ensures that we attract new spouse members from across professional specialties, across education levels, across services, and across socioeconomic backgrounds. In Gear Career provides free programming, available to anybody who self-selects to attend our events. In Sigonella, we coordinate monthly Coffee Talks, Lunch and Learns (or Learn and then Lunch, sometimes), Networking Socials and more. At the Coffee Talks, we start the conversation with an article about professional work, whether it be how parents deal with childcare costs, or a new article about leadership from LinkedIn, and then let the conversation follow the interests of the members present. The Lunch and Learns are geared more toward professional development, such as updating resumes, creating and using a LinkedIn profile, and public speaking. Our Networking Socials encourage spouses to interact and build the network of professional contacts that are key to maintaining a career arc while married into the military life.

Networking is a key piece of every profession and we welcome spouses at any point in their professional career. We welcome spouses who are current students, spouses actively working part-time or full-time, spouses who are taking a break from a career to be a stay-at-home parent or for any other reason, and even active duty military members who are about to transition into a civilian career. By meeting each other and learning about the professional communities in our midst, we magnify the power of the military network. Already, I know my husband’s colleagues in bases from Europe to Japan, from the Bremerton, Washington to Newport, Rhode Island. Just think how powerful my own professional network would be if I knew professional spouses in all of those locations. Next, think how powerful a military spouse professional network would be if I could share my network with you, and vice versa. THAT is the goal of In Gear Career, and that is why we are focused on outreach in Sigonella.

Last Thursday, March 28th, we had a Networking Social at Sigonella. We had a great turnout and the post-event buzz seems largely positive. A local photographer, Ed Lucio, provided a studio for complementary headshots. Ed volunteered his services and even provided touch-ups without being asked. His professional photos are a great resource for a professional blog, LinkedIn profile, and more. Here is the headshot Ed provided me two days after the event:

Jill Headshot

 

The event also featured a keynote address by WWC President, Lauren Weiner and WWC Chief of Staff and Director of OCONUS Practice, Heidi Snell. Lauren and Heidi talked about what qualities they look for on military spouse resumes; as of March 2013, WWC hired 121 military spouses in Sigonella and Naples, Italy since it opened its doors in 2004. The crowd of about 35 community members responded with enthusiasm, curiosity, and anecdotal contributions to what worked for their resumes.

Jill ActionMe, introducing In Gear Career to the attendees.

Mar 28th Net SocialFrom left: Lauren Weiner, President WWC; Jennifer Simpson, WWC Sigonella Supervisor, In Gear Career Sigonella Events Coordinator; Jessica Lewarne, WWC Sigonella Senior Analyst, In Gear Career Sigonella Public Relations/Marketing Director; Debra Gray, WWC Sigonella Analyst, In Gear Career Sigonella Membership Coordinator; Jill Warning, WWC Sigonella Senior Analyst, In Gear Career Sigonella President; Marta McClintock, WWC Sigonella Analyst, In Gear Career Sigonella Executive Treasurer/Secretary. Not pictured, Katharaine Walton, WWC Sigonella Senior Analyst, In Gear Career Sigonella Member; and Elizabeth Osborn, In Gear Career Sigonella Executive Vice President.

Our plank owners feature many WWC employees, and that has worked well for the intensity that starting a new organization requires. Other active In Gear Career Sigonella members include spouses seeking employment, other contracted (not WWC) employee spouses, GS employee spouses, and entrepreneur spouses. All in all, the work that goes into promoting and developing this organization is demanding and creative, and very rewarding. Please contact IGC.Sigonella@gmail.com with any questions, or talk to us in the comments section.

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Sigonella Directory

The Cinquecento Project wants to pay it forward to incoming military and civilians to Naval Air Station Sigonella. I started the blog in part because of the dearth of information available as I attempted to plan for my transition to Sicily and the lifestyle of an OCONUS military spouse. Ha! I didn’t even know what OCONUS meant until I was over here for a few months. Check out the acronyms section below if you aren’t in that loop yet.

To help anyone who just wants to get information about Sigonella without wading through my more personalized posts, I culled my posts for the following information. Of course, since there is no typical military spouse, even my Sigonella-specific posts are somewhat personalized. I attempted to organize it into useful categories. If you have a question I haven’t answered, post a question in the comments and I will spend the second half of my time in Sigonella to fill in the gaps, as I can. I always have an eye to OPSEC, so I may not be willing to post all of the information you are seeking.

No matter who you are or where you are coming from, you can find a place for yourself in Sigonella; all it takes is a positive attitude and a willingness to be open to new cultures and experiences. Lean into the discomfort for your first six months and lickety-split, you will be assimilated and loving la vita dolce in Sicily!

Cinquecento Project Posts:

– Basics about living in Sicily
– Basics about NASSIG Amenities
– Getting Around
– What to do/Where to go…
…on Sicily
…in Italy
…in Europe
…in Europe and Asia
…in Asia
– Acronyms
– Italian Words

Sister and Brother Sicily Blogs:

Sicily Ciao

Basics about living in Sicily

– if you are a civilian or military spouse interested in working or furthering your career in Sigonella, check out In Gear Career Sigonella Chapter

– summers are hot, the sun is relentless

the best oranges of your life (unless you are from a citrus hometown)

– be aware of Ferragosto: business grinds to a halt for the month of August; August is the month of vacation for all Italians and many from the north come to Sicily for the beaches

– Sicilians smoke and they don’t hide in corners the way smokers in the U.S. do

horse meat is enjoyed, donkey meat is a delicacy

– Sicilians take International Women’s Day seriously!

avoid McDonald’s

Leroy Merlin

– Trucker’s strikes (“sciopero” is the Italian word for strike) can be empty threats, or they can be very real and cause long lines at gas stations (no truckers to deliver more gas), and traffic jams due to protests at the toll booth, and more consequences: Here are my posts about the most intense strike in order 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

gelato; gelato; gelato; granite; gelato

– military spouses do it all with resiliency

eat figs, mmmm

– Poste Italiane, pay your parking tickets here (you can pay for a parking ticket at any post office in Italy, it does not need to be in the same city where you received the ticket)

– you may be in temporary lodging for 56 days

– Eat a granite and brioche for breakfast and feel Sicilian

Military Members and pets

– Fall in love with Mt. Etna, and eruptions, eruptions, more eruptions, Mt. Etna webcam, and another, Mt. Etna smoking, Mt. Etna ash

bonfires and fireworks for festivals and any celebratory occasion

– Permesso di Soggiorno, or Sojourner’s Permit: go to legal, apply for it, then forget it (unless you are taking a trip that requires it)…just don’t stress out about it, if you know you *need* it, call back to the office; if not, just relax and use your no-fee passport and visa and chill out; if you must, carry the letter that you applied for your Sojourner’s permit with you when you travel

shopping, Ikea, more shopping

– history is all around you(!!!): stories from the Odyssey

Geep!

– things burning on the side of the road should not alarm you during dry season

– don’t be surprised if you consider decorating with wine barrels

Basics about NASSIG amenities


Base Living

Yes, we have a Commissary, and a Navy Exchange, as well as Navy Federal Credit Union and a Community Bank (government contracted bank on base, operated by Bank of America, runs on 10-year contracts, renewed recently (~2013)), there is an autoport (although many car-guys trust Mario, who runs a garage across from Marinai), dry-cleaning is available on base, there is a laundromat, barber shop, flower shop, hospital, 2-screen movie theater, bowling alley, skateboard park, and more! Also, remember that Sicily is beautiful and you have to learn to overlook a bit of trash here and there (cuz littering is a thing here).

Tips for Adjusting

Postal System: with a few key tips in mind, you can have a lovely time in Sicily, receiving regular mail. Tips: Tip #1 – inform your creditors of your new address and always have an email back-up; you will NOT receive bills ahead of time, so do not rely on a paper document to remind you to pay your bills, PLAN AHEAD for this…schedule a regular payment, or pre-pay, or mark your calendar and call and ask how much the bill is when you know it has been issued…whatever it is, don’t rely on a paper bill showing up in the mail; Tip #2 – let your friends and family know that (a) a 1st-class stamp is all they need to get an envelope to you (under 1 ounce), (b) use Priority and the package will reach you in about 6-12 days, (c) if they use media rate or standard (fka Parcel Post) the package will take up to 3 months to reach Sigonella; Tip #3 pay attention to the shipping method when you purchase goods online, if the arrival is important to you, ALWAYS, always, always choose Priority! – the vendor cannot provide overnight service due to the distance (so it isn’t worth paying for it), and Priority will almost always get it here in two weeks or less; if the vendor uses FedEx or UPS, I recommend you (a) find an alternate vendor, (b) use a service like APObox, (c) negotiate with the vendor to use USPS for delivery, or (d) ship to a friend/family US address and have them use USPS for delivery. This is important because the companies who have contracts with UPS, DHL, FedEx or any other private carrier will revert to the slowest USPS method if they even offer service to the APO/FPO address, which means up to 3 months delivery time to Sigonella.

Gym: As of this writing, the gym on NAS I is much nicer, although both have their ups and downs. If you prefer the gym on NAS I, put your name immediately on the wait list for a locker, it may take 2-8 months for you to get a locker. The pool is at the NAS I gym, although there is a current project to restore the pool on NAS II. NAS II has sand volleyball courts. Both NAS I and NAS II have fields. NAS I has a track (behind the school). Both gyms have machines for cardio and weights; NAS I has classrooms for group exercises (yoga, pilates, zumba, etc). They also put together the Base 2 Base series, a group of runs that feels very much like home to any runners out there, I started with the POW/MIA run.

Housing:
Inspection
your dryer might be outdoors
you will sign five original leases (wait, which one is the original?)
– your bathtub and shower will be different sizes than you are used to
Base Housing, the majority of base housing is in Marinai (scroll to third photo on link)

Indoc: When you arrive on island, I recommend sitting through the indoctrination class the base provides you. Many of you will opt out, feeling that your time could be better spent exploring on your own; however, I regularly use knowledge I gained in indoc and colleagues and friends often say “How did you know that?” and I answer, “From indoc.” At the very least, I encourage you to participate in the InterCultural Relations (ICR) portion, which provides you survival Italian resources, a chance to step into the community with a guide, and information about ordering food from Italian vendors (e.g. “I want a pound of sliced provolone” does not compute with Sicilian vendors, and believe me, you want to buy their provolone!).

Library: There is a great OCONUS library system, complete with interlibrary loan, an NKO loaning library (your sponsor will have to get you registered unless you have a CAC), a coffee shop, friendly and knowledgable librarians, about 20 desktop computers for community use, study tables and carrels, a decent dvd section, ample travel book and travel dvd collections and strong wi-fi.

Getting Around

Driving

My philosophy on driving in Sicily
Telepass – get it if you live north of the toll line, it’s worth it!!! Traffic jams can be killer…, but just like getting back on a horse you gotta get back on that freeway

Ferries

Flying
The major airport for eastern Sicily is in Catania (CTA) and is named Fontanarossa, which means “red fountain.” Space A from Sigonella can get you to Norfolk, via Rota, Spain. Or, in the other direction, you can get to Souda Bay, which is on Crete (an island of Greece).

There are also some regional routes that offer affordable prices if you fly through the Trapani or Palermo airports.

What to Do/Where to Go…
…on Sicily

Acireale Carnevale

Aeolian Islands: Milazzo to Lipari, Canneto beach (views of Panarea and Stromboli), best cannolo ever, Vulcano,

Agrigento
Valley of the Temples
Turkish Steps
Bagliesi Winery

Caleca Ceramics Factory, Caleca Ceramiche – near Patti, Sicily

Caltagirone

Catania Bellini Opera House

Catania Fish Market

La Caverna in Acireale

Cefalù: home of the annual international gelato festival, I went twice so far.

Gambino Winery – a winery run by a warm Sicilian family, with delicious wines, a great tasting room, and ample hospitality – enjoy!

Locanda COS near Ragusa

Ortigia

Ottobrata in Zafferana – this is a huge Sicilian festival, and it runs strong for each weekend in October, when the mountain town of Zafferana features a different Sicilian specialty each weekend. Go early and make sure you leave before dark to avoid 2-hour long lines leaving Zafferana

Shalai – this spa and fine-dining restaurant in Linguaglossa is amazing!

Siracusa

Snowshoeing on Mt. Etna

…in Italy

Amalfi Coast; we flew in and rented a car in Naples to visit Pompei and the Amalfi Coast, enjoying lovely sunsets, too

Lago di Garda, you don’t have to run the marathon, though

Milan, meandering

Roma – a favorite of mine, enjoyable as a couple, with parents, or even just an overnight on your way someplace else…

Tuscany, we had a great trip there with friends in 2011, good food,

…in Europe

Amsterdam, and eat bandeja paisa

Barcelona, mmmm eat at Escriba

Brugge, Belgium

Estonia, culture abounds, Tartu, scroll to the wall drawing

Geneva, Switzerland, we had a fabulous time in this expensive city; plenty to see and do and eat and shop (if that’s your thing), great opportunities for day trip to the mountains for a hike (though we did not fit that into this trip)

…in Europe and Asia

Istanbul, Turkey
cay, ayran, kunefe, Topkapi, menemen, nar suyu, commentary

…in Asia

Taiwan
Taipei, guava and popcorn, Taiwanese junk food, European style bakeries, Mr. Cheeseburger Face Man, cute kids, Zelda and Taroko Gorge
Lyudao, Lyudao (Green Island), Lyudao II, and more Lyudao

Acronyms

CAC: Computer Access Card
CONUS: Continental United States
NASSIG: Naval Air Station Sigonella
NKO: Navy Knowledge Online
OCONUS: Outside the Continental United States
Space A: Space Available (access to open spaces on military flights)

Italian Words:

antipasto/antipasti: appetizers; traditional Italian antipasto plate usually has cured meats, cheese, olives, and maybe some local specialties such as sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, etc.

AutoGrill: restaurant and bar on the autostrada, always has interesting tchotchkes, free bathrooms, fresh panino, and nutella

bar: a coffee shop; usually you order at the cashier, get a receipt and take the receipt to the coffee bar where the barrista will make your coffee drink

Caprese salad: tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil (for some reason, the majority of places that serve the Caprese around Sigonella do not always include basil)

colazione: breakfast

Family words

Greetings: Buon giorno, salve, ciao, buona sera

mare: sea (signs saying “mare” indicate if you follow them, you will be led to the seaside)

panetteria: bread shop

riposo: rest; this is the Italian version of the Spanish “siesta” period; logistically, this is the time when shops close for the hottest part of the day, and gives Italians time to be with family before returning to work for another 4-5 hours; riposo period is very real in Sicily and you will notice changes in traffic and many shops will be closed; there are more malls and large stores that are staying open straight through riposo; just check the schedule of a store to avoid any frustration

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Siracusa & Ortygia

In early November, my cousin Maddie and her friend Lindsay visited us in Sicily. I took advantage of the opportunity to revisit ruins in Siracusa and to circumnavigate Ortygia. We had a gorgeous and sunny afternoon, tempered by a roaring wind that ushered in evening on Ortygia.

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The view of limestone cliffs from the archaeological site on the northwest side of Siracusa.

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Ruins of a Roman ampitheater are behind us.

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Entering the Orecchio di Dionysius – the “ear” of Dionysius. Named for the Greek tyrant Dionysius who ruled Siracusa for a time. Apparently, he was a nasty ruler.

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Lindsay and Maddie

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The view atop the Greek theater at the same Siracusa archaeological site. Breathtaking! This theater is still used for special events, such as the Greek Theater Festival running from mid-May to the end of June. I hope to get to a performance this year!

The 2013 season, the 49th Cycle of Classical Plays, runs from 11th May – 23th June and will feature the following plays:

– Oedipus by Sophocles

– Antigone by Sophocles

– Assemblywomen by Aristophanes

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A kayak water polo match in the canal between Siracusa and Ortygia

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Ortygia by dusk

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Ortygia, November 2012

The proximity of this Sicilian gem means I will get to revisit these sites time and again. Will you be joining me next time?

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A Night at the Bellini Opera House

I recently spent an evening enjoying a symphony performance at the Bellini Opera House in Catania.

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Every seat is a good seat here, we had the best view of the ceiling from our vantage point.

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Pretty chandelier.

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The piazza outside the old building was a bit bare when we went in at 9pm and more abuzz two hours and change later. It was shaping up to be a busy Friday night in downtown Catania. Moments like these are friendly reminders of the universal desire for beauty and community through the shared experience of music. And, of course, the community of the passersby on the street – off on errands, to make appointments and meet friends and lovers.

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Buon Natale

Buon Natale from me!

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