I go to an internet cafe slash panino house and take advantage of their air conditioning, free internet and of course spicy salami panini.
It is the ‘study’ period in Catania. This means that the diligent studious few spend a full month in preparation for one 20 minute oral exam.
In practice this means they dutifully lug some books along with them to the beach or to the bar. Because the exams are in the oral format the students have been conditioned into thinking that the best way to remember the useless info that they study is to read it and then repeat it aloud. Therefore all over Catania there are those who sit and talk to themselves. At times like this it’s quite difficult to identify the maniacs.
One young man comes in and sits by a table. He opens a book and commences to mumble paragraphs out loud to himself. To the casual stranger he is little more than another freak chattering to himself in public. To the trained eye, however, he is an erudite Catanese student.
Some students meet specially in air conditioned rooms and test each other’s knowledge by posing exam questions that they have invented. No one knows what will be asked; out of a book of 200 pages, one may be asked three or four quite specific questions. They must answer correctly though to at least 3 of these or be failed on the spot.
This cafe is polluted by some particularly inane and rather chatty Sicilian ladies. They prance around with little purpose other than to seek attention from whatever men are in the vicinity. They spend their entire ‘study’ period drinking caffe freddo, eating gelato and gossiping about foreigners who are in earshot.
‘Is he an American?’ asks one.
‘Probably, look at him. He’s definitely a foreigner,’ concludes another.
‘Be careful, maybe he’ll hear you,’ warns a third.
‘Don’t worry, he can’t speak Italian.’
I continue typing, perfecting my ignorant innocence.