The Not So Good, Pessimo Day in Sicily, by Liz Siracusa

When Liz was working on her personal narrative, she started by making a various timelines of how her story could go. Eventually she settled on this one:

  • Conductor Yelling
  • Shock and Confused Feelings
  • Landing in Brolo
  • Hours of Waiting
  • Feeling When the Train Shows Up

Once she had her timeline, she just typed right into it, stretching each part out with lots of detail (dialogue, actions, thinking, and images). 

This is the same process that lots of students can benefit from when planning a story, then drafting.

Conductor Yelling

“Get off, get off” I could imagine the conductor was yelling at me in Italian as he was guiding us off the train. He was hollering various words that I didn’t understand, louder and louder when he saw that we did not have a ticket reading where our final destination was. I remember the expression on his face, pure panic, frustration, irritation. I looked around at my friends, their faces began to match the face of the conductor. Oh boy, we were in a foreign country, in a town we didn’t know, with people who speak a language we’ve never heard and we were going the wrong direction on the train…for over an hour.

Shock and confused feelings

As we anxiously awaited the next stop we could get off, we were so confused as to how this mistake happened in the first place. We all thought back to the train station where we boarded. On the monitor in the lobby it flashed, “Messina” which was where we needed to go. However, the train we were currently seated on was going to the city of Palermo, three hours north west of our final destination, Siracusa. How could we have gotten on a train going in the complete opposite direction? That question still lives on four years later.

Landing in Brolo

The train slows down to its next stop, Brolo, Sicily. Middle of nowhere would be an understatement. We don’t know how far we are from Messina, if there even is a train going back to Messina, or if we will ever make it back to Siracusa alive. After much wailing, arguing and reflecting, we decided to call Michelle, the director of our study abroad program. We thought perhaps she could help us. We hoped that she could look up the train schedule, telling us if there was any chance another train would come tonight. In the back of my mind her voice from a few days previous kept replaying, whispering, “Never wait until the last train in Italy, it may never come.” She had warned us of the inconstancy of the Italian railroad, being extremely unreliable and under staffed.

Hours of Waiting

Margaret, my roommate and best friend at the time finally gets a hold of Michelle. Come to find out, the only train going back to Messina was in 2 hours. I instantly began to feel slightly more comfortable, thinking “Okay, we can do that, we can be patient and wait.” However, not only do we have to hope that train comes, we have to hope that it will get to Messina quick enough to catch the last train back to Siracusa, which wasn’t promised either.

As we sit on the concrete, dirty, rough ground at the Brolo station, we start to play some games, eat the last of our snacks and avoid the Italian men trying to heckle us for money, food and probably our bodies. Those two hours felt like days. Only two trains passed through. They came at the same exact time and neither stopped. All five of us huddled on the three foot wide platform between them. Let’s just say, between the noises, gust of wind and look on my friends’ faces, my life flashed before my eyes.

Feeling When Train Shows Up

Finally, two hours later, the train had ARRIVED!! Exhausted, nervous and relieved, we are on our way to Messina. Now, let’s hope when we get there we can catch a train to Siracusa!



3 thoughts on “The Not So Good, Pessimo Day in Sicily, by Liz Siracusa

  1. Loretta-finding structure is quite challenging when we write and you did it well here with the time line strategy. Makes it easy for the reader to follow. And….wow! An incredible travel experience you captured!

  2. Good work with letting your authentic voice be heard! This definitely feels a very first-person narrative, and I especially enjoyed the portion with the waiting at the train station. I would’ve loved to see more of the inside of the train, though: what it sounded like, smelled like, how it felt under your foot when you took that first step on-board. But still, nicely done!

  3. Liz, my attention was captured when you started with dialogue. I enjoyed reading about your (stressful!) traveling experience.

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