I’ve been in Italy for a while now, almost 3 weeks…i’m not sure, because i’m not good at math and I don’t feel the need to double check. Anyway…I’ve had the opportunity to really absorb and observe the people around me and the Italian culture, which has been fun, and frustrating. Being in a new place makes you realize that there are some things that you just take for granted, or even expect. For example, when I go to the grocery store back home, there’s usually someone there to bag my groceries or the clerk will do it.
That’s not how it works in Italy.
Everyone bags their own groceries, which I did not get the memo about the first time I went shopping or the second, or third, and still, I forget, even though I’m a frequent flyer at Conad (the big supermarket chain here). Also, Italians don’t generally buy a lot of items in one purchase, which makes sense, because things are fresher here and people are used to going to different stores for different things, which I love, but the American in me is pre-programmed for convenience, so I often end up at Conad with too many groceries and an annoyed clerk. I’m working on re-programming my mind to buy a few items everyday, instead of taking the “Costco Approach”, in which I always end up struggling to walk home, feeling like my fingers are going to fall off from lack of circulation.
Other than the whole shopping in bulk thing, I’ve started assimilating much better into Italian life and most of the time pass as an Italian. But, there are still a lot of things that I’m still learning, hence the title “Scusi, ma sto imparando”, which means excuse me, but, I’m still learning. It’s a good phrase to know, if ever you get too ahead of yourself with trying to speak Italian. But, in general, I don’t have a problem communicating. When I go into stores, I speak to the workers in Italian and they generally respond back in Italian, except for every once in a while, because they can tell that I’m not native, by my accento (accent). Since I try really hard to speak Italian, it always throws me off when I hear Americans or other English speakers just approach the workers right away, demanding things in English. It’s kind of rude. I mean, I get it, it’s hard to learn another language, but at least learn a few useful phrases. Now, I understand why Americans have such a bad rep abroad, we kind of suck at not being annoying. I’m annoyed by us, so I can only imagine how these Europeans feel.
The only good thing about people thinking that you’re American is that they don’t think that you can understand them. This means that you can over hear some great convos about somethings you might or might not have wanted to know. And also, it’s just cool in general to be able to understand convos in another language. Like this past Saturday, when our study abroad group went on a day trip to San Gimignano and Siena, and I sat in the front of the bus with my roommate, so for the time that we weren’t conked out, we were listening to our bus driver, Alessandro speak, in Italian to our program adviser. He was talking all about his wife and kids, the languages that he knows, the war in Serbia/Yugoslavia, and why it’s ok to wait to have kids. It was enlightening.
Alessandro and other Italians that I’ve heard all have this certain way about them that is so wise. I don’t know if it’s the way they talk about things or if it’s the cute expressions they use that just give them this level of sapienza (wisdom). Like, the when I listened to the President of the Gelato association talk about how gelato has soul and heart and ice cream is all just air. This gelato metaphor is seriously life changing. I want my life to be gelato, not airy and superficial like ice cream. Anyway, this guy was just so great and had this fun, witty, and sarcastic way of talking about everything that you know comes from a certain level of sapienza, from life experiences. Italians are such characters, and I thoroughly enjoy watching/being a part of their chaotic way of life.
Another thing that I’ve learned about traveling is that when you’re adventurous enough, sometimes you encounter dumb luck. This is how I discovered that there was a gelato festival in Viareggio, the place that I randomly suggested going to, because there’s a beach there. My friends and I went this past Sunday, because after a day of walking all over Tuscan hill towns, we just wanted to veg. And, what better place to veg than the beach? So, I mentioned to my mom that I was heading out to Viareggio, because I try and keep her updated about my life. She sent me back a link of fun things to do in Viareggio and that’s how I found out that there was a gelato festival that takes place there, the weekend that I was already planning on going, WOOHOO! This meant that I got to eat copious amounts of gourmet gelato for super cheap and also got to meet some awesome people in the culinary world. It was grand! And totally a fluke, that we all thoroughly enjoyed. I hope that my dumb luck continues.
Until next time…
Baci e Abbracci,