(Photo by Niles Rooker)
My time in Florence flew by. I got an apartment with five of my girl friends and we attended morning classes for the past two weeks. According to my roommate, I’ve been sleep talking in Italian…I'm hoping it's a sign that I’m actually absorbing the language. We’ve gone to so many museums and churches. Some of my favorites were The Museum of Galileo, The Uffizi Art Museum, and the Medici Family Home.
Something most people don’t know about me is that I love history. I’m not great at remembering specific dates or names, but I’m fascinated with the life and culture of those that came before us. Even seeing how technology has progressed intrigues me. Nerdy, I know, but I believe there's so much to learn from the past.
(Photo by Katie Roth)
I started to get the feeling American students are seen as burdens. Think about it; we come in massive groups, we're louder than Europeans, we expect everyone to speak english, and we're oblivious to how we're perceived. I can't tell you how many times I've been yelled at by locals for things I didn't even realize were frowned upon; however, I've noticed that when you try to speak their language they're far more compassionate.
(Photo by Katie Roth)
My favorite place to get gelato is owned by an elderly man named, Giorgio. He is the cutest guy; short, round, and he always has a toothless grin on his face. If I had to guess, he’s somewhere between his late 70’s to mid 80’s (good Lord, I hope he doesn't read this). We’d always wave hi to each other on my way to school, but the other day I saw him sitting alone in the rain and I felt the need go over and see how he was doing. I had him pegged as a quiet man, but once I asked a few questions he opened right up. Turned out he had a lot to say- in rapid Italian nonetheless. While I couldn’t keep up with most of the conversation, I did catch one important piece. When I asked him what he thought of Americans, he replied, “I love all people; black, white, red, yellow, green, blue. I don’t care about the skin color. I have respect and admiration for everyone. We’re all important. I just want everything to be peaceful. It makes me sad when I serve Americans because they tend to look down on me. Not all Americans though. Look at you! You make me happy because you try to speak my language, I appreciate your effort to understand my culture.”
He continued to talk to me for another 45 minutes or so about his three children and his love for Florence. I just listened. He didn’t speak a drop of English, nor did I want him to. I did a lot of nodding and saying, “Sí, capisco” meaning “Yes, I understand." That's about all I could say because I don't know enough Italian to make intelligent conversation, but in a way I'm grateful. Not knowing how to speak fluently has forced me to become a better listener, which is arguably just as valuable. When I finally had to leave he said, “Aspetti! Come ti chiami?” meaning, “wait! What’s your name?” I told him my name and he said, “I hope you'll come back soon my new friend, Olivia.”
For the rest of the day I couldn't stop thinking about our conversation. I was disappointed that this was his experience with Americans. Do I think anyone would walk into his gelato store with the intent to belittle him? Of course not. Do I think we’re unaware of how we come across? Absolutely, myself included. If we're being honest, most of us probably wouldn’t think twice about the encounter we had with the man that sold us gelato.
Sometimes we’d take day trips. My favorite trip was Tuscany, or as it’s called in Italian, Toscana. When I decide to get married in 3,000 years, I’m down to wed there. The view was breathtaking- yes, I know I say this about every place, but it’s true!
The day was spent vineyard hopping, consuming course after course, and wine tasting…and by ‘tasting’ I mean 8-10 full glasses of vino. You’re expected to keep up at a steady pace, and I kept up. After all, I am Italian- it’s in my blood.
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