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 รจ 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.