My Lovely Awkward Interactions with Italy

I realize that I have not updated my blog for awhile. There are a few options to explore the reasons why: (1) I’m having such a wonderful time that I forgot about the internet, (2) I have been sickly for the past two weeks and worrying about my health instead of blogging, (3) I’ve been reading more blogs than actually writing myself, or (4) I was waiting on enough embarrassing stories to happen so that I could enlighten you on my traveling American adventures. Since I had to stop about five times to sneeze and/or cough just writing the first paragraph, I think you can figure out which option is correct.  Obviously, I am having an amazing time in Roma, Italia, but I could never forget about the internet/twitter, facebook, linkedin, google+, inside higher ed, etc… Ok, 3 is kind of true. I have been reading a lot of posts from various blogs this summer in order to expand my knowledge about the world around me. And I definitely do not have to wait for more embarrassing stories to happen before I have good enough material for this post.

You all were able to put in your two cents worth with the recent poll I posted. Out of some awesome topics, embarrassing travel stories rose to the top. Living in Rome for the past five weeks, I have been able to experience the culture of food, efficiency, traffic, protests, travel, conversation, and heat. Yes, heat! Italy, specifically Rome, is getting hit pretty hard with a heat storm from Africa. Hopefully this 100 degree weather will only last one week and get back to a more modest 85 degrees. I have found quickly through meetings in my internship with multiple nationalities, that communication is very difficult. Speaking through everyone’s 1st or 2nd language will not always get the deep and efficient conversation you might when everyone resides in Clemson, SC. On the weekends I have been taking day trips to Orvieto, Ostia Antica, Perugia, and will soon leave for a three day trip to Pisa, Florence, and Tuscany. I have traveled mostly by bus and train, so it has been interesting getting to know the train system. Thankfully I will be gone Friday, because I hear that there will be a public transportation protest on Friday. Not many people will be able to get around, if that is the case! I cannot wait to try the wine in Tuscany and enjoy as many of the cuisines I am able to eat.

Now onto the topic of your choosing: Embarrassing Stories.

Story #1: The first week I arrived, I was frantic because of all the changes, not being able to speak Italian, but still having a lot to cross off on my to-do list. This list included everything that I told myself that I should not have packed because I could buy that product here, in Italy. (A packing technique I have mastered to not go over the weight limit for flying.) This list included a towel, shampoo, conditioner, soap, laundry detergent, tupperware for lunches, food, a SIM card, etc… If you know me at all, you know that I can barely go 20 minutes with out my phone, so the SIM card was a priority. Not only for my compulsion to have technology around, but for others to be able to get a hold of me so that I can get to know people. No one would call me or even touch my phone unless I had an Italian number.

So on my way back from AUR one afternoon, I found an electronic store.  I saw the cell phones, stereos, cameras, and printers all in the windows, so I decided to try it out. As soon as I walked in, I asked if they spoke English and was denied. The store manager motioned me to come in further, as if he could still help me and I let him know that I could not understand Italian. This did not deter the nice owner, so I took my phone out and pointed to the back and said quite sheepishly, “SIM card?” (I had no idea by this point how to say, ‘do you have’ or ‘where can I get’). He said, “Si! Si!….. more Italian I couldn’t understand.” So we battle it out with the few words of English the store owner knew with the few words of Italian that I knew. Not really battle, more of a frustrated foreign word exchange. Anyways, while I am waiting for him to process my information, because you have to have your passport, the address you are staying at and all the information according to the SIM card you are receiving he tries to start having a conversation with me. There are two men having a conversation, trying to be patient with the girl from America that does not speak Italian, they ask why I came to Italy if I could not speak Italian. All I could say in Italian was, “Bella Italia.” They thankfully took that answer and turned it around to me. (So remember how this was one of my first few days here, I am so embarrassed and cannot stand looking like a tourist, I was blushing pretty bad already.)  The two men say, “Bella Rosa,” and pointed to my hair. I didn’t feel threatened and added on, “Molto bella.” They got a great kick out of it. Meanwhile, I’m thinking, “I’m out of vocabulary words! What do I do?” The poor store owner was fighting with the computer, so it’s taking longer to process my data. So he says, “No more bello roso for me,” while pointing at his semi bald/red head. The other man laughed and I smiled like to say, “Oh dear,” waited in silence for the rest of my time there, and left to go ask my American friends how I actually use the SIM card.

Story #2: I tried to make a joke, and we all know my jokes are funny. So, I was working for AUR picking up the students from the airport and riding in a van with them back to their residences. On the way there I had to give the study abroad students the quick orientation during the 30-45 minute ride. By this story, I had been to Italy for about a week. The driver, did not speak any English at all. I barely knew 10 words of Italian. We managed to have a conversation about us not being able to understand one another and wondering why we were put together as a pair. So, we hit Rome at the busy part of the day (which is basically all parts of the day), and i try to make small talk and learn a few words. I asked the driver in Italian, “what do you call…” and pointed to all the traffic, made a few hand gestures of driving, and verbally demonstrated ‘honk honk’.  After all that, he said, “Traffico.” Nice. So I sat in silence for a bit again. Then thought it would be funny to say, “Traffico no rapido!” No. The driver ignored me. I stopped talking and said thank you for the ride with a smile after he dropped us off, and that was that! (You know he was laughing on the inside though.)

Anyways, I will have to shorten my posts. I have so much to tell you all, and I have waited so long to post anything. Maybe you’ll get two posts this week? Who knows! As always, if you would like to check my pictures out, please go to Week 3 and Week 4.

I think I’m acclimating to this culture quite nicely 🙂


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