Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Fresh Prince of Furlo

by Art Por Diaz
While spending time in Cagli, I made a great friend named Paolo. He invited Kelli, Rachelle, and me to Furlo to hear his band play. We were told, “You are the first Americans to come to Furlo to see a band play. Thank you.” Upon our arrival Paolo announced, “Please let us all welcome our American friends who are here to spend time with us.” One by one, every person came and introduced themselves to us. A mixture of English, Italian, and Spanish interchanged like carbon and oxygen in the capillaries of our lungs. We laughed when we couldn’t grasp what the other said and sang the night away while building friendships.

As soon as everyone heard I am from California, Hotel California was played and I was asked to join the band to sing; even the songs I didn’t know I was asked to sing. At some point that night someone said, “Fresh Prince,” which I immediately thought they meant the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I was right; except it was in Italian. While most of the people sang the theme song in Italian, I sang it in English.

The night ended with us all staring at the stars and Paolo inviting me to meet his father at his shop where he makes world famous smoking pipes later that week.

I could not have culturally immersed myself any better while dealing with the issue of not speaking Italian. I hope to see Paolo again, this time speaking in Italian.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Head, Shoulders, Knees, and... Heart

by Aimee Elber
Franco Donati seems welcoming and approachable. With a wide grin and a mischievous face, he looks like the kind of jovial man who would chat about everything and anything. This is why I sat down beside him in the piazza my second night in Cagli and, using Google translate on my mobile phone, timidly asked if he would teach me a few words and phrases. 

Of course, Franco obliged, and with a deep belly laugh, started teaching me words. Much to my chagrin, however, he chose words that had little meaning in the grander scheme of my learning here in Italy. Franco started pointing at various parts of his body and yelling the corresponding words in Italian. “Testa!”, he said, pointing at his head. “Bocca!” he shouted, slowly and deliberately when I parroted back the incorrect pronunciation “Buca” while mirroring his actions and pointing at my mouth. Grabbing our ears, we exclaimed, “Orecchio!” and laughed together.

By the time I left the piazza, I had memorized the song “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” in Italian. As I walked back to my apartment, though, I felt frustrated, disappointed, and sad. These words wouldn’t help me navigate my experience in Cagli. I wanted to learn phrases such as, “How are you?”, “I am an American student”, and “I know very little Italian”.

Prior to my departure to Italy, I had started learning Italian through an app called Duolingo. I made it through about 6 or 7 lessons, and could say “apple”, “strawberry”, “boy”, “girl”, and “the cook cooks a snake” (which, admittedly, was cause for concern and not at all what I envisioned Italian cuisine to entail.) I had hoped for a total immersion experience, and expected to at least learn a few useful words and phrases.

In the days that followed my initial conversation with Franco, I occasionally saw him around town. Waving and smiling, I’d yell at him, “Ciao Franco!....Testa! Spalla! Ginocchio! Pollice!” (Head, shoulders, knees, toes). He would look at me first with confusion, then a smile and a wave…and proceed to teach me a new word. “Occhio!”, he said, pointing to his eye. In English, I would beg him to teach me a few words that weren’t body parts. “Let’s talk about the weather, Franco. Help me learn colors or shapes. Something. Anything.” He shook his head, pointed to his nose, and looked at me expectantly, testing my knowledge. With a heavy sigh, I replied, “Naso”, and went on my way.

As I thought more about my frustration, I realized that although I wasn’t learning what I wanted or needed to learn, I was still interacting with Franco, listening to his words and phrases intermixed with the occasional body part. I had gained a friend, learned patience, and participated in his culture on his terms, not mine. While I had felt cultural dissonance in the beginning of our friendship, I had come to accept what Franco had to offer and take that knowledge away gratefully and graciously.

During one of our last nights in Cagli, I sat next to Franco as he quizzed me on my words.

Cervello”, we said, pointing to the backs of our heads to indicate “brain”. “Piedi!”, we exclaimed, gesturing toward our feet and laughing together.

“Franco,” I said, pointing to my chest, “Come si dice?”

“Ah,” he replied, “Cuore. Coo! Oh! Ray! Cuore.”

“Grazie. Uhmm… Il mio cuore è grande….for Cagli….?” (“My heart is large for Cagli.”)

He smiled and nodded. “Brava! Brava!” “Occhio, Bocca, Testa, Spalla, Cervello….”


by Rachelle Favorite
I am a very punctual person. I was taught that being late to any event or when meeting someone is very rude if you are late. In my everyday life I am usually about 10 minutes early to anything just to make sure I am not disrespectful to the person I am meeting. Also to guarantee my on time arrival. Growing up in the U.S. I always heard of "Island time" meaning a slower way of life in other parts of the world.

Upon arriving in Italy I started to slowly see this more relaxed way of living. Every afternoon shops would close for about three hours in the afternoon for "piazza." This is the time when Italians go home for relaxation and lunch. I thought to myself, "man I could get used to this lifestyle."

This was not a problem for me on this trip until we took a day trip to the quaint town of Urbino. We arrived in Urbino around 10 am, once there we immediately went to the famous Renaissance museum in Urbino. Along the way we passed by a few shops that looked interesting to browse in for souvenirs for loved ones back home. By the time we were finished exploring the museum it was lunch time. My classmates and I went to a fabulous pizza place for lunch that took about 2 hours to get through the whole meal. By this time it was 230 pm and all the shops were closed for their afternoon piazza. However the sign on the door showed that most shops would reopen at 330 pm.

We were told to meet up with the group at 400 pm to catch the bus, which by the way was on the bottom of the hill, whereas the shops were all on top of the hill. If we did not show up at this time we would have to figure out how to find our way home on our own. A few of us decided we would get our last minute souvenirs at 330 pm. We arrived promptly in front of the shop we wanted to visit however it was still not open. We waited until 350 as this was already pushing the time for us to run to catch the bus and the shop was still not open.

The times here seem to be a good guesstimate or an approximate of when to open, but Italians do not consider this behavior rude or disrespectful as some other countries may view it. I have learned that Italians are living life in a such a way that they can enjoy their surroundings. This has taught me to be patient in my own life, maybe not be late to things but to maybe give others a little bit of slack if circumstances do not allow them to be on time.

The Bathtub Debacle

by Kelli Pastore
In the United States, many people have washing machines where the dirty water empties into a floor drain. This is not the case in my Italian apartment. My washing machine had a hose that is attached to the side of the bathtub. The dirty water is then disposed of through the bathtub drain. While finding this a bit odd, my roommate and I did not pay much attention to it…. At first.

After we did the laundry the first time, we noticed that there was what appeared to be dirt around the bathtub drain. This was not a big deal because we just ran some water and the dirt went away. The problems began after jeans were washed. We came home to a bright, denim, blue colored tub that was not draining properly. The cause of the backup was wet lint and hair. Our landlord had installed drain covers so that nothing but water would drain. We had to scoop and scrape the wet lint, hair, and dirt from the drain in order to get it to function properly. This was not the last time this would need to be done.

While the two of us found this pretty gross, it is apparently not uncommon for Italians to have a set up similar to ours. It does make sense that this would be a fairly common practice since the buildings around Cagli are so old. When they were built, there was no plumbing or electric. The cost to add the additional plumbing and drain system for a washing machine could be outrageous. The cheapest and easiest would be to drain into the bathtub.

Looking back on this experience, there are several things that stand out to me. First, I could have used the cultural specific approach before my arrival in the hopes to better educate myself on what could have been happened. I may have been able to find and article somewhere that would have better prepared me for laundry time here in Cagli. Secondly, there was an assumed similarity from my perspective, which resulted in a bit of a stumbling block. I assumed that these small little things would be just as they were in the U.S. And finally, this is an example of our journey along the u-curve. In the beginning, we were just excited to be here and have access to a washing machine, and then we were a bit shocked that the machine was drained in the manner in which it was, and finally, we just accepted the situation for what it was. There was nothing we could do to change it. In retrospect, cleaning out a drain cover isn’t the worst task I had ever done. No harm, no foul.


by Samantha Quintanar 
During this course we have compared and contrasted how Americans and Italians view the concept of time. Americans view time as a very important unit of measure, while Italians take a more leisurely approach. 

Several times I have joked that the shops and restaurants of Cagli have crazy hours and are only open between the hours of 8:42 am and 8:46 am on Mondays and Wednesdays, but closed the second, third, and fourth Monday of the month. While this is an obvious exaggeration, many of the places here can make their own hours and are almost always closed for pausa, which takes place everyday between 1 and 4:30pm. 

This makes someone like myself very frustrated at times. I come from a city where I can get anything I need at all hours of the day (even if that's a midnight taco run). 

Just when I thought I got a hang of the Caigese schedule, everything changed! After class today, my classmate Kelli and I stopped at two places we thought would be open for lunch and they were closed! We then began our hunt for food. 

Finally, we saw a familiar place open, La Pineta. We walked in and asked, "Aperto?" The staff then replied, "mezzo," meaning noon. Since it was 11:45, they seated us and told us we would need to wait a few minutes. We agreed and sat down. The hostess served my classmate and I water and handed us menus. In true Italian fashion, we heard the church bells ring 2 minutes late. My phone read 12:02. 

Still no service. The staff actually began watching a soap opera and eating their lunch inside as we stared longingly at their plates. I was so hungry and beginning to reaching the level of "hangry," a combination of hungry and angry. 

It wasn't until 25 minutes after noon that the waitress came to take our order. As I said my order, the waitress then informed me that their menu was limited and the items we wanted were unavailable. After sitting at the table for almost 45 minutes my classmate Kelly and I looked at each other in a hunger rage. We got up, paid for our water, and stormed down the hill in search for food once again. 

Hungry and defeated. Hungry and angry. Hangry.

Smile, Stare, or Sidestep? A Game in Cultural Dissonance

by Aimee Elber
During my teenage years, I left my hometown of Richland, Washington and attended high school across the state in Vancouver, Washington. As I packed and prepared to leave, my father shared a quote by William Arthur Ward, reminding me that navigating unfamiliar spaces and meeting new friends could be quite simple and easy. He said, “A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.” I held this value with me well into adulthood, using it frequently over the years. That is, until I arrived in Italy. 

(read more below the cut)

It happened again.

by Marie Tjernlund
It happened again.

At exactly 5:07am, the garbage truck roared past our open window, its brakes squealing with earsplitting intensity. Lurching to a stop, I could hear the whirl of the mechanism attaching to the recycle bin and lifting it upward. The crash and bang of hundreds of glass bottles landing on the bottom of the truck’s empty bed was deafening. Slamming the recycle bin back to the street, the truck revved its engine and continued down the street to another set of dumpsters. Motorcycles shrieked through the alley at all hours of the night. Street sweepers, their metal bristles scrubbing the cobblestones at 6:00am, sounded like fingernails on an enormous chalkboard.

My fierce American values kicked in. I found myself screaming in my head: “What are they thinking?! Don’t they realize people are trying to sleep?! Why aren’t there laws that stop this sort of activity until a more reasonable hour?”

In an attempt to make some sense to these daily interruptions, I considered the orientation of Italian communalism versus American independence. In this country struggling with high unemployment and limited financial opportunities, could it be a comfort to hear the garbage truck roaring past a window? The driver could be someone’s son and isn’t it wonderful that he is working today. The street sweeper reminds the members of this village that they have pride in the cleanliness of their streets. Ok, the motorcycles are a stretch but maybe this is one of the only ways they feel they can exert their independence. This could truly be an example of “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

My context has changed a bit. I admit that I’m still irritated when I am awakened by a sound comparable to a 747 taking off next to my bed at 5:07am every morning, but then again, as I am changing my thoughts, it is changing what I see.


by Kailee Dunn
The odds are that if we met on the street, I will greet you with a smile. In most cases I might even say, "hello." I was raised to believe that it is polite to greet one another, no matter if we are friends or total strangers.

 I continued this habit during my first few days in Italy. If I locked eyes with a local Cagliese, I greeted them with a toothless grin and sometimes a "ciao." However, during my fourth day of class, we discussed the subject of non-verbal communication. Unbeknownst to me, I had been misusing a couple non-verbal motions to try and communicate with the Italian people. For example, it was brought to my attention that some cultures find it odd to smile or greet a complete stranger. This apparently holds true in Italy. 

When thinking about all of the people I smiled at, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that they all smiled back- even if it were after a moment of hesitation. I learned that while something polite and friendly in one culture, might come off as downright strange in another culture. However, I now find myself beginning to smile at people and awkwardly looking away mid-smile. I have yet to come to a conclusion of what is worse, just sticking with a big grin or being awkward.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

To Pay or Not to Pay

by Kate Storms
In the United States, generosity is thought of as being generous with your friends. However, in Italy, being generous is something more powerful than sharing with your friends. Instead, generosity is to give to everyone, literally everyone. 

While sharing a meal with five other students, we were blessed to know the chef, because a student had met him earlier.. He proudly flaunted his talents by providing appetizers and the house bread, which he described as pizza with rosemary. (Additionally, it had sea salt and olive oil). After a delicious meal, the chef brought out six bottles. 

The bottles contained various alcohols including limoncello, a banana liquor, visciole (cherry desert wine), and a deep chocolate wine with peppers. With respectful care, the group of students excitedly tried each bottle. . Upon sampling the banana liquor, I had to ask where I could obtain some to share with my family. 

Instead of allowing me to purchase the wine or telling me where I could purchase it in town, the chef took a different course of action. He searched his inventory; deciding he was not satisfied with his choices, he went to the back, found a bottle, and washed it. Using a funnel, he poured the larger bottle of banana liquor into a newly cleaned bottle. The chef urged that I take the bottle at no cost to me. 

I graciously agreed to take the bottle. It felt wrong to take the bottle without paying, but it clearly would have been more wrong to insist on paying.

“Never slap a smiling person.”

by Yolanda Chang
Seventeen days in Italy is not a long time to stay in a foreign country. However, it’s my first time to be in a place where most people don’t speak English. I had been always thought that English was spoken all over the world, especially in Europe. I was wrong.

In Cagli, a small, remote town, most people speak only Italian, which caused me so much confusion and also stole some of my confidence. I was afraid of communicating with Cagliese and could only depend on other classmates. Also, because of my lack of Italian, I understood nothing when the Cagliese tried to explain something to me or have conversations with me. Therefore, I used my smile and body language to respond to them. 

I believe nonverbal communication is the best way to overcome the language barriers between two different cultures. I also believe that wearing a smile on my face when people talk to me is the easiest way to reduce the tension. There is a famous saying in Chinese culture: “Never slap a smiling person.” Not able to speak Italian actually gave me the chance to experience the power of nonverbal communication. 

Our body languages, our hand gestures, and our facial expressions are all beyond the things that come from our mouths. Communicating nonverbally also helps us gain a deeper understand of culture. Knowing a language helps us to get to know a new culture faster, but it doesn’t make us know a new culture deeper.


by Rachelle Favorite
Before arriving in Italy, I opened my Italian phrase book maybe twice. I knew the basics before arrival: vino, ciao, cappuccino, and grazie. I wish I would have prepared myself a bit more prior to arrival. I quickly realized not knowing the language would be quite challenging. When I arrived in Venice, I needed to take a train to Florence where I would meet up with my classmates. I was able to navigate myself to the train station, however when I tried to ask someone if they could help me buy train ticket, the lady I asked quickly got upset and used hand gestures in response. I still had no idea what she said, but I'm pretty sure it was not nice. Luckily, I was able to ask another lady working the ticket booth how to buy tickets to Florence. In her broken English, she was able to help me get on my way.

Once I arrived in Cagli, my hand gestures were out in full effect in an attempt to communicate. I never went into a shop assuming Italians knew English, so I would point to what I wanted and try my best version of broken Italian with a bit of English. The shop owner would try their best to understand me, and I would do the same. After about ten minutes of trying to understand each other I found Italians knew better English than they let on. I found this out when some would answer me in perfect English after the transaction was finished.

I now know more than 5 words and can get around town with this new knowledge. I will come back to Italy someday, but I will definitely prepare a little better next time. However, even with the language barrier, Italians are very generous people and overly accommodating.


by Ellen Murphy 
I fly out of bed in panic. The sun was up. WHAT time is it??? I have to be on time for class, it’s the first day!

I am beyond panic and in a frenzy. I find my cellphone clock. It is 5:45 AM. I cannot settle back down to sleep a few more hours. I busy myself with getting ready for the day by packing and organizing my school bag. At 6:30 AM the church bells chime.

In Cagli Italy church bells chime daily every hour, then at quarter past the hour, half hour and quarter to the hour.

I open my eyes and listen. I know it is after 6:30 AM. I heard the first chimes of the day. I also know that the bells for 7:30 AM have not rung. “Too early. The church bells have not chimed.” I settle back on my pillow. Patiently waiting for the church bells to chime to begin my day.

Nearing the end of my stay here in Cagli, I have regularly determined time by the church bell chimes. Time to rise, go to school, lunch and pause, the end of school, dinner and bed time.

It is slightly disconcerting to have everything in class be time sensitive. Time concepts for school are out of sync with the rest of life in Cagli. I have discovered a time activity that is representative of Kluckhorn and Strodtbeck’s theory of the 5 universally shared problems.

With no “real” clock the bells have paced my days. My pace is slower and less rushed. Except for class. When I return to the States with work and deadlines; I can see the discord as a slight advantage, when my pace will return to breakneck speed.


by Arthur Diaz
The man checking tickets ricochets off bus seats as he bumbles down the aisle. Despite his lack of grace, he wears an air of authority. After requesting my ticket and noticing it has no stamp, he declares, “Identificazione.” I shrug and say, “I don’t have any” while shaking my head “no” so he can understand. “Passaporto!” he repeats over and over as if his words will make the document appear. Every no and shrug seems to frustrate him like a blister on the heel of a foot. 

Eventually, Professor Caputo comes to discuss with the ticket man how I am a tourist, but the man vehemently brushes off what Gio has to say by pointing at two women and saying, “But these Moroccan women knew what to do.” Immediately I realize this was no longer an issue of a foolish error about a bus ticket. This was his way of making an example out of me by pointing out the stupid American.

The issue was ultimately resolved with a 25 euro fine. I didn’t get a ticket or a receipt, which is a little odd since he desperately wanted my passport information to fill out the ticket he was going to issue me. So I have no way to post a picture on Instagram. I couldn’t help but hear Jay-Z rap, “‘Son, do you know why I'm stopping you for?’ Cause I'm young and I'm black and my hat's real low.”

Please Speak English

by Kailee Dunn
One of the things I have thoroughly enjoyed about this program is being completely immersed in the Italian culture. We, as students, were warned that the petite town of Cagli and the surrounding cities were less likely to speak English compared to a tourist town. This made me both nervous and excited. 

Over the weekend, I traveled with a group of students to the beach town of Fano. Seeing as this is mainly a vacation destination for Italians, I was excited to practice my Italian. However, as my classmate and I approached a food counter at the beach the woman behind the counter yelled to someone in the back and another woman appeared. We reached the counter and mumbled something like, “how do you say this?” My response, however, came from the woman taking our order. “Please just speak English,” she said. Apparently my white-blonde hair and freckles made it obvious that I did not speak Italian. 

In the moment, I was baffled that the woman would try and discourage me from practicing Italian. Looking back, I realized that we were at a resort destination and she was just trying to be hospitable. After that incident, we discussed the importance of hospitality in the Italian culture. Whenever they can adapt, they will do so.

Luckily, not all of my ordering experiences have been discouraging. In fact, every other time I have ordered the person taking my order has been extremely patient and helpful.

Just Press Pause

by Nick Stjern
American citizens are notoriously famous for overworking themselves. This ideal is so ingrained in our culture that New York has become known as “the city that never sleeps.” However, New York is not alone. Other cities are filled with grocery stores that are open around the clock, which allows for people to live their lives in an unrestricted way.

A slightly different tradition has been adopted in Italy. The country seems to have a less ambitious attitude towards work. Every day, cities around the country press pause for about 3 hours. Pausa – which begins at about 1 PM and ends around 4 PM – allows people to have a break in their workday. During this time, locals may find it difficult to fully enjoy themselves on their trip to small Italian cities. Mid-afternoon is typically a busy time of day in the United States. However, shopping and lunches need to be placed on hold and it may be difficult to satisfy any afternoon cravings for gelato.

It is true that Italians may not work as many hours throughout the year as countries like America, but I believe the hours that are worked in Italy may be of a higher quality because employees are not overworked. I can’t think of a single instance where I have been treated badly by an employee in Italy and I’m saying this as a foreigner who doesn’t speak much of the language. On the other hand, I can recall several times that employees have been less than accommodating in the United States – where there is not a language barrier to work around. I know it may be difficult for Americans to adapt to, but they should appreciate the quality of the service they are getting from the well-rested Italian citizens.

Impatient or Efficient?

by Marie Tjernlund
My alarm went off at 7:25am. Within 45 minutes, I showered, dressed and was out the door. My classmates and I walked briskly to class which started promptly at 8:30am. We had a few extra minutes so we stopped and ordered a cappuccino in a local café. I watched the barista assemble white cups and saucers on a round tray. Milk steamed and freshly ground coffee beans were finely ground.

I glanced at my watch. More than 10 minutes had gone by. We were definitely going to be late for class. Awkwardly, we communicated to our hostess that we needed our coffee “for the road.” I caught her eyes. Without missing a beat, she grabbed small paper cups and hastily poured our delicate drinks into the transportable containers. We plunked down our euros, shouted our “Ciaos” and ran to class. A couple of swigs later, the coffee was gone.

The cultural mismatch in this event isn’t so much about the food but rather about how we use our time. In Cagli, the cappuccino is a means to slow down, take a break, savor the moment. For me, the beverage was a vehicle to get going, wake up and take on the day. While I meant no disrespect by running out with my cappuccino, I’m venture to guess that I only added to the image of the rude and impatient American. In my culture at home, my behavior would most likely be interpreted as efficient.

Which one is the better use of me? I may not know now, but I am grateful for the opportunity to finally ask it.


by Samantha Quintanar
As a Mexican-American woman, Cumbia is a dance that represents motion, fluidity, and sensuality. It is often a crowd favorite at my family’s parties and other cultural gatherings. During La Grigliata (Grill Fest), I heard the DJ announce “Cuuuuuuuuumbia,” which made me want to get up and dance.

As I saw the crowd flock to the dance floor, I was taken aback. While the Cumbia beats were the same as those I’m used to, the corresponding dance was much different than I expected. The locals began a very elegant waltz, which to me, felt counterintuitive. It was stiff and people took the dance very seriously (almost to the point where it didn’t look fun).

The Italian Cumbia was not a dance I wanted to attempt. I feared if I tried it my way I would be met with sharp glances from the locals. My sassy, hip-rolling Latin Cumbia moves would have to wait and I remained in my seat.

Time to Pay

by Nick Stjern 
Italy is often thought of as a place filled with tiny café’s where individuals can order a cappuccino, eat a pastry, and take some time to savor the day. Few foreigners would argue with the beauty of these types of settings, but they may find themselves a bit out of place when they try to pay their bill. The tendency for many busy Americans is to pay their bill when they have ordered their food at the counter. However, this is not the observed custom in Italy. There is a great deal of trust between the business and the customers. Employees seem to expect people to order their food - and enjoy it - before ever worrying about exchanging any money. The overall effect of this process creates a sense of relaxation, which seems to be representative of the attitudes of many Italians. They never seem to be in a rush to get things done and they trust that things will happen when the time is right, instead of when it is scheduled or expected. 

Coming from the United States, I am considering whether a system like this would work in the US. I’m surprised to hear that locals don’t take advantage of this type of social arrangement. If Starbucks adopted this type of system in Seattle, I imagine that several people would simply get their coffee and leave without paying the bill. This demonstrates how it may not be so simple to take one system – which seems to be an embodiment of an entire cultures approach to daily life – and insert it into another. I suppose the picturesque café lifestyle will have to remain in Italy for now.

Work Release

by Ellen Murphy
Monday morning as I proceeded to class, a muscular man with tattoos dressed in a florescent orange jumpsuit swiftly passes me in the street. I catch my nervousness with a quick intake of breath.

Reflecting on a recent discussion in class, I recognize either an idiosyncratic or covert cultural mismatch. In my hometown florescent orange jumpsuit designates prisoners on work release. Men to be avoided. Untrusted and potentially dangerous.

After four days in Cagli, I realize he is one of many city workers. I no longer hold my breath nervously. I watch the city workers in their florescent jumpsuit uniforms work with a small street sweeper.

The brushes of the sweeper rapidly scrub the cobblestone street. The clean up after the Grill Fest has begun. The men empty the recycle bins and trash. Reviewing the landscape of the street for wayward trash and discarded cigarettes, the men use push brooms to coral the remains.

All About the Bread

by Yolanda Chang
I miss meat!

During my past week in Cagli, my diet has been mostly pasta, pizza, panini, and pastries, which all contained large amount of carbs. I think Italians have their own dietetic culture which I'm still not accustomed to. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the Italian food; however, I really wanted to have a piece of delicious medium-rare steak.

Luckily, Grill Fest happened over the weekend. This was an amazing two-day “meat adventure.” It had many kinds of food options for locals and tourists. Therefore, the fest was my best opportunity to have something different than Italian cuisine. I so looked forward to the start of the event. Around six p.m. on Saturday, vendors were setting up their stalls with amazing speed. All of Cagli smelled like summer, happiness, and smoke. And I was starving!

I walked around the festival with other classmates to see what we wanted to try. All the food smelled incredible. I could feel my mouth was getting watery. I finally decided to try EVERYTHING! I basically tasted all the food sold in Grill Fest. I know that sounds crazy. But I didn’t know when I would be able to have bacon, kebabs, or steak. again before I returned to the U.S.A. What fascinated me was although I was having dishes from different cultures, I still saw Ciabatta on the sides of every dish. Italians really love their bread.

I was full but satisfied after my meat adventure. It was not only about missing meat; it was about missing home. Without a doubt, I have found my stay in Cagli wonderful. Nevertheless, I miss the food, my friends, and my life in America.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Facing My Fears in Florence

by Aimee Elber
Prior to my departure to Italy, I noticed an impending sense of distress and unease. I found myself worried and fearful, but could not pinpoint exactly why. This troubled me some. I had been wanting to travel to Italy for the better part of the last two decades. For me, it had become the trip of a lifetime. Why did I feel so out-of-sorts? Why was I wringing my hands and pacing as I packed for the trip, instead of cheerfully whistling and smiling to myself with anticipation? 

Giving it some thought, I came to the realization that I was nervous about traveling alone to a foreign country. My only experience traveling overseas had been a short trip to Iceland in 2011 with a group of friends. Our flight was direct from Seattle, and almost everyone in the group had traveled before. I felt bolstered by the group’s collective knowledge, and confident that they would take care of me.

Traveling to Italy was an entirely different experience altogether. I was alone and unfamiliar. I flew from Portland, Oregon to Toronto, then on to Frankfurt, and finally Florence. With each leg of the trip, I could feel the familiar comforts of home becoming more and more distant. In Portland, flight attendants delivered pre-flight instructions in English. In Toronto, passengers were greeted first in English and then French. In Frankfurt, the terse staccato of German was first to fill the cabin as we waited for take-off. Following the German, English instructions were given by a man with an Irish accent. Looking about, I became keenly aware that I was in the minority.

Upon landing in Florence, I experienced a snafu. My fears had come true. I had taken the risk and suffered the consequences. I was alone in a foreign place, and somewhere along the transcontinental journey the airline had lost my luggage. I tried to communicate with customer service to no avail. My friends were not there to protect me. I couldn’t speak the language. The air was muggy, and sweat dripped down my back as the reality of the situation sank in. I hadn’t slept in nearly 24 hours. I was scared, tired, alone, hungry, confused, and sweating like a pig mowing the lawn. I caught a glimpse of my haggard reflection in a trash receptacle, and despite my best efforts to maintain composure, hot tears began to form behind my eyelids as I argued incoherently with Florence baggage claim staff.

Eventually, I made my way to my room for the night, rested, and prepared to meet my fellow classmate, Marie. We had both been in the city for a full day, alone to explore and soak in all that Florence had to offer, and agreed to meet at the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Il Duomo di Firenze (Florence Cathedral). “I’m wearing an obnoxious while and black polka dot shirt. I’m tall with black hair piled up”, she said.

Running late, I scurried through cobblestone alleyways making my way toward the main piazza before rounding a corner and finding myself in the center of the square. I stopped, feeling a sucker punch to the gut as my breath caught in my throat and the majesty of the Duomo loomed in front of me. People were everywhere. The Duomo was huge. I had never met Marie in person, and our phones could not receive international texts or calls. Once again, my fears had come true. I was alone! Lost! Confused! Navigating unfamiliar territory! Where was my classmate? How could I find her? Where could she be??

Suddenly I noticed a tall, slender woman with beautiful black hair and a bright smile making her way toward me. She wore a black blouse with large, white polka dots, and a look of wonderment and delight in her eyes as she peered up the Duomo with the same reverence and awe I felt earlier. We stopped in our tracks and stared at each other. “Marie?” I asked. “Aimee?” she replied. A wave of relief washed over me. A fellow American! A fellow studentessa! Someone I could speak English with and ask questions to and fell connected by.

We stood in the square and gushed at each other for almost half an hour. “I can’t believe we’re finally here! How was your flight, did you find the hotel okay, is it hot here – it feels hot to me, it’s so wonderful to talk with someone about this experience, look at those sweet children, have you been practicing Italian, are you hungry, what did you do today, can you believe how beautiful this is, we have finally arrived!!”

Meeting Marie taught me the value of connection. While I am very comfortable spending time alone and have a spirit that yearns for solo adventuring, the need for human interaction, especially with others who identify with my culture, is evident. More importantly Marie taught me that even when I feel alone or uncertain, mishaps occur, or I get lost, all will work out in the end. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Her Horse is Crazy

by Kelli Pastore 
On Sunday, June 26, 2016, I experienced another issue where there was a bit of a language barrier. Rachelle decided to do her profile piece on a man who does high fashion photography. While we were doing our interviews, he asked if we would like him to take our photos. We decided that this was a once in a lifetime experience and that we would later regret it if we declined his invitation. 

Over the next several days, we discussed what we should wear and how our hair and make-up should be done. We viewed the photographer’s online portfolio and decided that most of his haute couture shoots included women with hair that was visually interesting. The photographer also commented that he takes pictures that are unique because they are composed of people who are different looking. It is this difference that makes the pictures stand out in an interesting way. 

One the day of the photo shoot, I was tasked with doing the hair and make-up for both of us. My hair is short, but Rachelle’s flowed past her shoulders. I spent quite a bit of time teasing her hair in all sorts of directions. We thought that the combination of thick and thin hair clumps would allow the light to come through in interesting ways. 

When the photographer arrived, he commented in Italian that he hardly recognized us. I commented, “Il cavallo di Rachelle e’ passo.” He gave me a very strange look. This confused me until I realized that I told him that, “Rachelle’s horse is crazy,” instead of, “Rachelle’s hair is crazy.” Cavallo- capelli; Horse- hair. It was an honest mistake.


by Kate Storms 
As I entered the jewelry store, my recent amicas (friends) immediately questioned me about the shorts I had worn that morning. The inquiry came in the form of broken English and much Italian but mostly through gestures. I understood after the younger woman said piazza (town square), made her fingers walk across the air, and hit her legs with both hands near the spot where my shorts hit me. 

I responded with many gestures, English, and minimal Italian. With my whole body, I demonstrated hiking while saying Santa Maria (the mountain I traversed each morning). Suddenly and all at once once, the two women were yelling at me in only Italian and making furious hand signs that were meaningless to me. 

Within two minutes, I caught on to what they were saying. Yet, the women feverishly continued to expound on the topic for about seven minutes, and in the last two minutes or so, they used some English within the yelling and gesturing. 

The gist of their wild gesticulating and frenzied words was that I needed to be aware of viperas (vipers/snakes), biting motions,, and morte (death). Viperas patrolled Santa Maria. The big ones were harmless, but the small ones were vipers. One bite would kill a person within the hour. Their last point was that I needed to wear long pants since the vipers’ mouths were too small to penetrate the fabric. 

After leaving the jewelry store, I went straight to the sportswear shop and bought the most expensive pair of pants I have ever purchased. I appreciated the care my new amicas had shown me.


by Samantha Quintanar 
Slightly jet-lagged, I had two intentions as I walked over to Cafe d'Italia: ingest caffeine and phone home. I walked up to the counter and asked "Un cappuccino per favore." Jake looked back at me humorously and said "No." He then pointed to his wrist, at his invisible watch, and said "time for beer."

I was later informed by Dr. C that Italians do not consume milk past certain hour, but at the time my spoiled American self did not want beer. I wanted a caffeinated beverage (preferably "to go").

I looked back up at Jake and said "Okay. Una birra." He responded with "No. I make cappuccino."

Sunday, June 26, 2016


by Kailee Dunn
After stepping off the plane in Florence, I felt complete amazement. The history of the city is not only something you see but something you feel. With buildings dating back almost a thousand years, Florence is the last place I imagined I would be taking part in an Italian progressive movement. I was sipping my first glass of Italian vino when I spotted a Fatti di PRIDE parade- also known as a pride parade. 

What first caught my attention was a man who walked by the restaurant I was dining at in a yellow corset and black fairy wings. As this was not what came to my mind when I thought of Italian men’s style, I kept my eyes glued on the road. A minute later a group of people walked by waving small rainbow flags. Intrigued, I followed the crowd of people. They led me to a piazza where the parade was about to begin. 

Some people painted rainbow flags on their faces while others sported brightly colored wigs and vibrant clothing. Smiling and cheering on the parade marchers, parade-goers of all ages lined the ancient streets. Two men wore shirts that read, "We are Orlando." 

This event impacted me because I had this notion that the United States is the only progressive country. While Italy is rich with culture and history, the country is not stagnant. These activists were making their own history.

Shine Inside

by Kate Storms
The older of the two women sat behind the desk and buzzed me into the jewelry store. The younger woman and I walked over to the case with the bracelet I adored. I pointed, but we went back and forth on which bracelet I was interested in at least four times. Eventually, we concurred, and I smiled and said, “I will take it.” Surprisingly, the woman started to return the bracelet to its’ place. I stopped her and said, “I would like to buy this” more slowly than my first attempt. Again, she turned to replace the bracelet. Again, I stopped her and motioned that I wanted to take the bracelet with me. She understood, packaged the bracelet, and as she understood it was a gift, she attached a golden ribbon to the package. 

After purchasing the bracelet, her pup cautiously snuck up to me. I rejoiced in my loneliness for my own pets and petted and complemented her pup. Then, the two women in the store and I went on to fawn over and discuss our dogs. While love for a pet is universal, I would like to buy this is not.

The Pathway of Cultural Dissonance

by Nick Stjern
During my time in Italy, I have been observing a few of my own reactions regarding consideration. There have been certain instances where I feel that Italian citizens are not providing enough adequate space for us to pass one another when walking opposite directions. This is a seemingly minor issue, but it does cause some interesting internal feelings when someone is used to people clearly identifying the “lane” they are choosing to use. It has also caused me to consider that several Italians may be proud of their culture and that their pride may be preventing them from yielding any kind of ground in social situations. I am almost positive that this does not apply to every Italian, but it does make the locals walking the streets of Rome and Florence seem a bit inconsiderate.

I have also noticed Italians being unaware of their personal space. The custom where I am from is for an individual to turn and apologize if they were to bump into you when walking backwards. However, I have been in a few situations where an individual bumped a man holding an infant and didn’t even turn to acknowledge what he had bumped. Again, I’m sure this small sample does not speak for the entire population and that Italians are generally very nice and considerate when it comes to the people around them.

During these observations, I have remembered that I am in a new environment and that certain mannerisms may seem foreign to me at times. Just because I am used to people smiling at one another as they pass on the street does not mean that it is a custom honored everywhere on earth. It doesn’t mean the seemingly pleasant old man is angry with the foreigner because he doesn’t return a friendly nod. Instead, it reminds me that the world is full of different people, customs, and mannerisms. All of which should be appreciated.


by Yolanda Chang
I have been in Italy for almost two week now. I have to say that I have had so many different levels of the culture shock, such as the language, the hand gestures, the way the drive and park, and so on. To be honest, it has been hard for me to adapt to the Italian culture. However, I do admire the difference between Taiwanese culture, Italian colure, and me.

First of all, I love the fact that Italians know how to take a break and enjoy their lives. In Taiwan, people always try to work as hard as they can. Having a pausa seems impossible and lazy. On the other hand, Italians think pausa is a way to refresh their bodies and souls. To me, pausa seems a challenging because I’ve never taken a nap or just relax in the middle of a school or working day. I still want to keep myself busy even though I am allowed to take a pausa.

Moreover, breakfast is very important to me. Before I came to Italy, I usually have at least two eggs, a piece of toast, and a big cup of American coffee to start my day. Yet I can’t find any of these in Italy. Italians normally just have a pastry with a “tiny” cup of espresso ora cup of cappuccino in the morning, which is not quiet enough for me. Nevertheless, I have had some delicious pastries and fresh espresso. Those pastries are yum!

Theses past two weeks are neither long nor short. I have experienced many interesting things here. I won’t say I love and enjoy the whole Italian life style. However, I really appreciate every dissimilarity I have seen, felt, and experiences.


by Art Por Diaz 
“This is my boyfriend,” she said with a smile. I was dumbstruck since 15 minutes earlier, while we drank birra, I asked if she was single, and she said, “Yes.” To confirm I wasn’t mishearing things, I asked if she had a boyfriend while the guy she introduced me to was off fetching himself a drink. “Yes” barely exited her mouth when I interjected my sentence that went something along the lines of, “But you said you were single.” She stared at me, then said, “What is single mean?”

Microcosm of Immersion

by Ellen Murphy 
Writing the month, date and year of a calendar entry demonstrate an American ethnocentric and often invisible cultural difference. Today is June 24, 2016(06/24/2016); to a Cagliese today is 24 June 2016 (24/06/2016). In Cagli, Italy and most of Europe the date always precedes the month. 

When the new year arrives in January, I pride myself in remembering the new digits. I can handle a simple change of the day before the month. I hold my belief with certainty. 

I am not adjusting to this change as easily as I thought I would. I did not realize how uncomfortable this invisible cultural shift would make me feel. I am frustrated with the discord of trying something new. 

I practice placing the day in front of the month for my assignments. Midway I become comfortable with this microcosm of immersion. I realize I return to American soon and I will have to undo what I have learned. I ask myself will the shift back to the American style be as uncomfortable? I am expectant of a new discord.


by Rachelle Favorite
Upon arriving in Venice, Italy I went to the baggage claim area to claim my one piece of luggage. Waiting for what seemed to be an eternity, I decided to head to the lost and found area. When I arrived, I noticed there were many other people in the same boat as me. When it was my turn to talk to the Italian agent about my luggage, it was clear that this would be a challenge. Using my phone, I hurried to look up my hotel's address. Using hand gestures to explain I would be staying at that address for two days, she laughed and in broken English said, "you will not get your luggage this quickly." 

I went with the flow and proceeded to give her my address in Cagli or so I thought? I called the airline every day and got the same response, "please be patient." On day five of our trip, I was informed that my luggage had arrived in Cagliari, not Cagli. I thought to myself that it was an honest mistake, I decided to give the airline another day to retrieve my bag. On day eight, I still had no luggage, I called again only to find my bag was travelling to more places than me. The bag was now on its way to Rome. Upon hearing that I would not be at Rome during any point of my trip, the woman on the phone said, "please be patient." I said, "how patient do you want me to be?"

Fano Burgers

by Kelli Pastore 
Friday was sunny and warm. A group of us decided to drive to Fano, a beach town about 45 minutes from Cagli, to enjoy the salty waters of the Adriatic Sea. The winding drive through the green mountains toward the sea left us feeling a little hungry. We meandered through the bricked streets and found an out-of-the-way burger joint. The place had an American familiarity with a lot of Italian charm. 

Since the menu was printed on the wall, how hard could it be to simply speak the words listed, right? Well, the language barrier proved to be more difficult to overcome than we had thought.

When it was my turn to order, I slowly and clearly said the words listed on the menu. Feeling quite proud of myself, I found a seat on the terrace while I waited for my food. Imagine my surprise when the small woman worker brought the food to me. Sitting on the red plastic cafeteria tray was double what I had ordered. While I was famished, there clearly was something lost in translation. On a side note, the mayonnaise concoction that Italians make was surprisingly delicious on cheeseburgers.

Pride Goeth…

by Marie Tjernlund
I was so proud of myself. A month before Cagli, I started listening to Conversational Italian during my daily commute. While stuck in traffic, I practiced saying buon giorno and per favore with gusto. I was amazed at how easily “Io non capisco l’ Italiano” slide off my tongue. Armed with a small vocabulary, I felt invincible.

Soon after arriving in Cagli, I was sitting in the central piazza catching up in my journal. Suddenly, I heard a quiet voice. “Signorina?” Looking up, I realized an older gentlemen was speaking to me. He repeated his question, gesturing to the café behind me.

My brain frantically sought a phrase that I practiced. But something was wrong. My tongue tied itself up in a thousand knots. I mumbled horribly. “Io…uh…capice…uh…” No, no, no! What was happening? I was hopelessly lost and babbling incoherently.

With tender eyes and a warm smile, the man leaned in closer to me. I somehow managed to comprehend that he was trying to determine my language. Finally, my mind made a connection. “l’ Englese,” I said sheepishly.” The gentleman continued on with words I imagined were something to the effect that I shouldn’t worry. He would ask his question to someone else.

As he turned and walked away, I felt all my pride dissolve. I thought I was so prepared. Instead, I fumbled miserably in my first attempt to communicate. Then again, what a dear first encounter with a citizen of Cagli. His kindness reminded me to be patient with myself one conversation at a time.