It’s All Relative

by Angela McNutt (Spokane, WA)
I joined my friend Andrea at Caffe Commercio. During part of our discussion we began to talk about family.

I live in Washington. My parents, and one of my older brothers, live in Wyoming. My other brother lives in Sweden. My grandparents live in Nebraska, and aunts, uncles, and cousins are spread around there, as well as Texas and Wyoming. I see them all very little because the distance is far and the amount of time I have to travel to them, it seems, is too little.

For Andrea, and like many Cagli residents, their family, even extended, live here in Italy, in Cagli. They are able to see each other everyday. This difference struck me as Andrea shared stories of visits with his grandfather. How fortunate, I thought, to live in a family-valued culture where moments and stories between family can be shared and made each day. It’s not that the United States doesn’t value family, but for many, we are encouraged to go out and make a new life, separate from our family, and often times, away from our family. Sometimes we return to our home, but to have everyone - parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, all in one place, would certainly mean something special to me. Now I wonder, do family reunions, the large events that they are in the states, exist in Italy?

The Slow Down Comes Welcomed

by Danielle Gruden (Boise, ID)
of coffee are no more; skipping breakfast due to lack of time has gone extinct.

In the beginning one of the hardest things to accomplish was to feel ok - comfortable with sitting, relaxing, and tasting my cappuccino (I have developed the idea that they are better here simply because people take the time to enjoy them - actually tasting them for the first time). Now, it has slowly transformed into me wishing I could stay forever, breathing everything in while everyone else scampers off to begin their day. The idea of actually sitting and enjoying a cappuccino, let alone anything, is new to me. I suppose I never thought about it much before. I keep a box of granola bars in my car at all times, to ensure I always have something to eat when life hands me a filled out, color coordinated, and organized array of day planners. Here, although I do have studies and school to care to, life has slowed down a considerable amount. I do still get an occasional glare from a passer-by as I attempt to devour the last bits of my brioche from breakfast, or my apple from lunch. The funny stare is enough to make me slow my legs down and hide away my current snack. When at Cafe de Italia, if I attempt to stand and wait for my cappuccino, Jake graciously reminds me to take a seat - he’ll bring it to me.

Not only has the tempo of my life slowed, but the sincerity from strangers around me has as well. People on the streets are quick to say Ciao! and Buonosara! My landlord and I have attempted several conversations, without barely knowing one another. I met a younger man by the name of Giacomo - while trying to break down the words spilling out of Patrizia’s mouth the other night. She had asked him to help translate - he helped with no hesitation. Afterward we sat and talked about school, traveling, Italy, and the U.S. He helped me correct some of my Italian, and I helped him understand some of English’s nonsense. I now have a new friend to email.

The people here have not only opened my mind to the simple enjoyment of everyday actions but have also given me a new perspective on the friendly nature of people and how by just saying a unexpected ciao! to someone you’ve never meet - can make you smile for hours after.

Where Will Ciao Take Me Today?

by Jackie Kerns (Spokane, WA)
whats-up; in American those words are used as simple greetings to acknowledge a person in the midst of your presence. Sometimes they are the start to an easily understood question or interaction in which language isn’t an issue. For many they are a words that carry little expectation for a response.

In Italy we use the word ciao. And although it means the same hello, hi and hey, ciao for me has become a word with endless possibilities. It’s been a word that is sometimes followed by excitement, fun and even a little frustration when what follows the greeting cannot be understood. And although my time in Cagli has been short, the length at which I’ve used the word ciao cannot be counted. Ciao for me has become my linguistic partner in crime. It has brought me many friends and I am grateful to have it be the foundation of my italian vocabulary that is slowly but surely improving and becoming stronger.

In my time here ciao has introduced me to Ramano, the man that wanders the piazza eager to meet Americans and practice his english. Ciao has also brought me to Angela Corradi the woman I interviewed for my profile piece. It started with a ciao and after a three hour conversation which included the usage of the italian/english dictionary and a game of charades, I was invited to dinner with her family. Because of ciao, I met Piero in the piazza while sipping a cappuccino in the early hours of the morning. He later told me about his vineyard in Urbino and brought me a bottle of wine the next day.

Ciao rolls off the tongue and out of the mouth so easy as I walk through the narrow cobblestone streets of Cagli. But I know that this will not be the case in a couple of days. Unfortunately ciao unlike in the english language also means bye bye. And on Friday, the day we are say goodbye to this special place ciao for me will not mean the same. Instead ciao will be taking me home, back to America where the common greeting of hello does not mean the same and is not nearly as much fun to say. So instead of saying ciao to my new Cagli friends I think I will leave them with the salutation I give the people I love at home: Ciao for now! Because I know I will return.

Intercultural Dissonance

by Steve Hertz (Spokane, WA)
to Venice, I experienced an encounter that I would classify as intercultural dissonance. We had arrived at the train station to wait to board our train home to Cagli. While Vicki waited at a nearby table, I went to purchase a couple of paninis for the long ride back. There was a man and a woman working behind the counter, I stepped up to order and the man looked right past me as though I didn’t exist, asking the person behind me for their order. At first I let it go, be the ignorant tourist, I told myself. Then he did it again, taking the next person’s order…now I’m hot! This is totally inexcusable, and I was officially angry. He now could recognize my emotions and what seemed like reluctance, told the woman to help me. Then he went in the back room never to see him again. The woman gave me the sandwiches, and I was off but totally amazed that I was treated this way by a total stranger when I hadn’t said a word and had made no apparent “tourist-mistake”.

I can only surmise that this gentleman was nowhere near an appropriate level of acceptance on Intercultural Learning Continuum. Perhaps the responsibility lies with the person traveling, and not the host country. I know that I seem to making an excuse here, but I am at a loss to identify this action with some sense of humanity.

Cultural Mismatch

by Lisa Emig (Cincinnati, OH)
, I didn’t feel like I had any significant mismatches….. that was last night.

On my way home from the piazza, I encountered a middle age man, probably slightly older than me. He was carrying groceries up via Lapis and I said “Ciao” as we passed. He said “Buono sera” walked about four more steps then began to speak to me in Italian. I did not hear any words I recognized, so I told him I was Americana. He thinks about it and looks for another way to get his message across. He doesn’t seem frustrated…just anxious for me to understand. I had the same experience with others in the Piazza, so I didn’t think much of it.

He finally comes back in English with “I love you”. Me, thinking this was the only English he knew and he was trying to make a connection said in return, “Ok, I love you too”. As I begin to walk towards my house, he changes direction and begins to walk with me. This is when I realize he means he would like to “love” me and apparently I had just consented. I turned to him and I think he realized I now understood his intent and I told him….”oh! no”. He just said ”ah, ok” and walked up the street.

In the US, you are not typically approached by strangers on the street asking you to “love” them. You have guys who wolf whistle and make obscene comments but not usually a middle age man, carrying groceries, stop to ask for a “hook up”. Nor do you usually have a situation where you apparently agree to a “hook up”, back out and not have the man upset.

It was such a weird, random even, unexpected and out of context, that my mind did not even consider he was propositioning me. Although I had had informal conversations with Darcy that marriage was “open” in Italy, I was surprised and unprepared for this encounter. The odd thing was I was not scared of him or concerned that when I told him know, he would respond maliciously. Like most things Ive experienced in Italy, it’s all laid back (bro).

* * *

THERE IS ONLY ONE MAIN CLOCK in the piazza. There are no digital clocks on every the bank. There are no clocks in the caffes. I live and die by timelines and deadlines at work. No wonder people in the US are so stressed! The Italians live in the moment. We have an entire pop sub-culture dedicated to learning to live in the moment. Being present and not worrying about where you need to be or what you need to do. I have yet to see anyone hurry or appear to be late. You eat when you are hungry; you visit with people as you pass.

They don’t seem to over schedule their children. There is no need. This community is safe and the children just play. Stores open “sometime”; in fact, one of the signs on a business in Venice literally said “Open Some Time”. There are no 24 hour stores. I’m not really looking forward to going back to a culture which is constantly concerned with what time it is and how efficiently I use my time.

Intercultural Flashbang…

by Justin Ortman (San Carlos, CA)
from Italian to English may not be too difficult to understand, but it can certainly leave a person dazed and stumbling around for the next word, phrase, sentence or hand gesture. I was having a conversation with first Italian buddy and also interviewee for a class project. He speaks decent English, I speak a tiny amount of Spanish, and I’ve attempted to speak Italian for 6 days without having a total successful conversation. I was attempting to ask him what he loved about owning his restaurant, but it really didn’t translate… first attempt he requested I repeat, so I tried again with some Italian mixed in… still he didn’t understand the question; this is where the intercultural flashbang hit… I could hear my ears start ringing and my mind racing as I was trying to phrase a simple question into Italian, but my notes were at home, and my dictionary was with a friend, and my Spanish was returning yet completely useless… at about attempt 5, I think he finally got the idea… ( though I did little to help with that) At the point of feeling completely helpless I realized that it is these miss steps and misspeakings in language that cause us to not focus on anything except that we can’t ask our question or communicate the message. It leaves us dazed, confused, stressed and stumbling around for an answer.

A Touch of Discomfort

by Vanessa Dunham (Los Angeles, CA)
, I get cranky. I want to be left alone. My friends and family members won’t even think about invading my personal space when the temperature starts to rise. I’m sticky and sweaty, and the last thing I want to do is feel someone’s touch on my skin.

The warm, kind, close-talking people of Italy are shrinking – if not completely popping – my personal-space bubble. In Cagli, people I’ve grown close to will often grab my arm, plop kisses onto my cheeks, and greet me with a friendly embrace, despite my constantly red cheeks and sweat-kissed skin. At first, I felt a little violated. Then, I felt embarrassed. Now, I welcome the affection.

A Couple Examples

by Robert Kunkle (Garner, NC)
IN THE US we expect a certain amount of order to our lives. The way we schedule our days and weeks depend on this order so to limit the amount of “wasted” time. Here are just a couple examples to where these expectations clash with Italian culture.

-Where is Waldo? In the US, public rest rooms are plentiful, easy to find, and free. Signs are everywhere and usually included on any maps provided – especially the classic “you are here maps.” This is certainly not the case in Italy. After two 1 hour plus waits I have yet to figure out where the restroom is at the Pesaro bus & train station. In Bologna, we found the first sign for the location of the restrooms once we found them by trail and error. And once found we realized the use of these restrooms would set us back $0.80 €. This would never fly in the US.

-But the sign says back at 3:30: One of the points we have heard time and time again was that we should take store hours with a grain of salt. So when we went to the travel agent at 3:30 and found the door would not open- we thought – oh well – that’s Italia. So we waited, and waited and waited. At 4:00 someone emerged. We noted that the door opened in and we had been trying to pull the door open. The office had been open the whole time. In the US, fire codes dictate that doors need to open out. Plus intelligent design says that if you have a door designed with a pull handle, it should be pull to open – not push.

I love my iPhone

by Leslie Simmons (Burbank, CA)
my iPhone. Being an Angeleno means you have your Blackberry, iPhone, Droid or whatever smart phone you own in your hands at all times. Coming to Italy, I knew I had to surrender the iPhone for the “Zoolander” small Samsung international phone I rented from Piccell. I felt it would be a cleansing of sorts – just like not watching TV.

Technology is important. In many ways, it’s what advances the human race. Its purpose is to enrich and simplify our lives. But there can be too much technology – an overload – in which it takes over our lives. In Cagli, technology, particularly computers, is an afterthought in many ways. It is not needed or relied upon.

About nine days into my journey here, I realized I could still use my iPhone for WiFi use without roaming for a phone signal. One night, as I sat at Caffe d’Italia, I remembered that the café’s owner, Jake, told us on our first day during Dr. Caputo’s guided tour of Cagli that he had “free Internet.” “Cool!” I thought at the time. Jake has WiFi.

Later in our Intercultural Communication class, Dr. C mentioned that it’s puzzling for the Cagliese to see us American’s sitting out on the Piazza glued to our computers. So, I decided not to try out Jake’s “free Internet.” Fast forward to the free weekend we had, and several students were either in Venice or out and about doing something. So there I sat in the Piazza alone and I thought, “I want to hop on the iPhone, maybe take a cool pic to load up on Facebook.” iPhone in hand, I searched for the WiFi connection. Nothing. I found Jake and in broken English and Italian I say, “Jake. Computer. WiFi. Dov’e?” Jake didn’t understand. “Free Internet,” I tell him, pointing to my phone. “Oh!” he says, and points over toward the kitchen. Outside, there is a high table with a computer. There was his “free Internet.” No WiFi, just a computer, not even a flat screen, sitting there, unused. “Oh! O.K. Grazie!” I say to Jake. Then, I put my iPhone in my purse and slinked away.

The Train to Venice

by Vicki Hertz (Spokane, WA)
an incident that exemplifies the dynamics of two individuals from disparate cultures each at their unique level on the international learning continuum. On our return trip from Venice we had to change trains in Bologna. As we approached our seats we found that two people were occupying the seats we had purchased. Earlier in the week I had learned of a similar incident, and the Americans simply showed their ticket to the people in their seats causing them to move. I had my ticket in hand and held it up to show it to the people in our seats. An Italian gentleman sitting across the table, facing these seats remarked, "Calma, calma." I interpreted this to mean, "Calm down, lady!" in that his tone was one of distain. At that point I was thinking, "This man is not fond of Americans."

The people promptly left us to our seats with out argument. The man across from us turned his attention to his newspaper, and we settled into our seats. About five minutes later the lights and the air conditioning in the train turned off. We hadn't left the platform yet. An announcement informed the passengers that there would be a delay due to mechanical problems. My husband stood up to stretch and I positioned myself to face him by turning and kneeling on the seat. As I moved my feet I accidently nudged the gentleman's leg with my foot. He practically growled at me quite begrudgingly. I apologized profusely in the Italian I know, "Scusi, scusi!" as well as in English, embellishing with hand gestures of humility and regret. He was having none of it. He scowled and rumpled his paper in disgust. Eventually he left and did not return leaving me to think, "I just added evidence to his theory that Americans are crass and oblivious to the existence let alone space occupied by others."

In a later conversation Steve suggested many Italians in high tourist traffic areas might suffer from "tourist fatigue." Rather than progress through the continuum, they my simply remain aware of the others due to constant contact, but resist moving toward understanding because tourists can be such impositions with their "other ways" contrary to "our way." I, on the other hand, am consciously working my way through the intercultural learning continuum with the goal of achieving selective adaptation. I am here to transform aspects of my lifestyle. I made sure I was understanding and patient with the people in our seats. My tone was conciliatory. My apology was sincere. I worked in my heart to understand and accept the gentleman's begrudging attitude. Distancing myself I think the incident helped my see situations at home in the US from a local level where individuals complain, "What are they doing here if they don't know the language?" or expressions of annoyance when visitors from our sister city in Japan behave in ways that demonstrate a lack of awareness of American protocol. Some people seem to prefer to stay stuck and hold on to their reasons to growl.

Salami per favore

by Tim Churchill (Spokane, WA)
that little things in stores and bars have created the most cultural dissonance for me. Being that I speak no Italian, I often feel rude when at the market just saying, “Salami per favore” rather than my usual pleasant request in the states, “May I please have some Salami”? Another bit of dissonance at the store involved me and the checker staring at each other, as I paid for my groceries, but stood there as I expected them to be bagged for me. After I saw him helping the next customer I learned another custom in Italian markets.

I have attempted to change the social norm of Cagli to make me feel more comfortable in bar settings. Rather than having drink after drink, then paying at the end of the night, I have chosen to pay for each drink individually. I don’t think I am being offensive to the bar etiquette, but I do see them looking at me in an odd way.

Searching for Sugar

by Lynne Green (Seattle, WA)
tiramisu recipe. I begged it off of the manager of Hong Kong’s top Italian restaurant, Grappa’s. I really love it, and have yet to find one I like more, many that I like as much, but none more.

It seemed appropriate while in Italy and having group dinners that I make one and take to the dinner. I planned my time so that I could make it on Saturday while we all had time off and it could chill and be ready for Sunday night. I planned my time properly; I did the beach during pausa, cleaned up afterward and headed off to the grocery when I knew it would be open. There were really only 5 ingredients: mascarpone, eggs, sugar, lady fingers, amaretti cookies, and the espresso and liqueur was at the house already. I had seen the mascarpone the last shopping trip, so I knew where it was. I easily found the eggs. Perusing the cookie section took quite a while to be sure I had what looked like and WAS the real kind of lady fingers. They have a distinctive look, but the packaging was a little different, so I picked up and poked three or four different types before I was sure I had them. The amaretti should be in the same place, but I could not see them. I was looking for the ones that are wrapped individually. They should be here! I think they are originally Italian. Why don't I see them? I decide that I can make do without them.

Now to find the sugar, easy right..... NO
I have now made several laps of the market and I have found flour, salt, all the pasta, even rice flour and cake mixes, but no sugar... Surely I am not sunk for the reason of a lack of sugar am I? I feel the tension rise and the frustration that occurs when something so simple eludes me. I KNOW that there is sugar somewhere in this store. Not knowing the word for it, I am at a loss even how to ask for help. I make a few more laps. People are looking at me now...well that is at least how I feel.

I finally stop again in front of the cake mixes, it seems that it would be somewhere close by. Looking carefully I see a package that looks like it says sugar and with angel wings on it, I bet that it is confectioners sugar. I take that package to the deli woman that has been very helpful when I got things at the deli. I show her the package and ask for zucherro ( I can now read it from the package) “Si,” she says, maybe not quite getting I am looking for something besides what I have in my hand. I show her the first word, and she smiles and reaches down close to the deli counter and in front of the vegetables... Lo and behold there is a whole stack of packages of sugar that look like what my eyes had been searching for. Getting bolder and pushing my luck ... “ Dov’e amaretti?” I ask. She smiles, walks right to the shelves I had searched already, and pulls out a package that clearly said amaretti.

My shopping list is complete and I can now go home and make the tiramisu. I am still not sure why the sugar was where it was. Maybe it is always in that place, or maybe they will put it somewhere close to where I had been searching. Rather than focus on the frustrations, those are a given in any new situation, I prefer to focus on the people that are kind and helpful. I have an entire list that grows daily:the deli lady, the kids that redirected us to tre pozzi, the woman that showed me where the old bridge was and told me it was too dangerous, but then showed me how to get on it and watched me across, the smiling woman that waited for me to catch up and walk along the road with her to the river. These are the many memories I choose to focus on. Desserts will come and go, will or will not get made, but the people and their kindnesses are worth cherishing!

Exchanging Money

by Sara Baughman (Coralville, IA)
, I stop in to Mimi’s or Jake’s for a croissant and cappuccino. When I pay, I hold out my hand expecting the change to be placed in my open palm…and each time, they set the Euro coins and bills on the counter or in a change tray. After eight days in Cagli, I still haven’t acclimated to this cultural difference. Plus, I tend to knock loose coins around on the counter before I get a firm grasp and safely place the change in my coin purse. I’m pretty sure Jake may even find a few of my extra slippery Euros in the pen holder he keeps near the cash register – sometimes they just get away from you.

I’ve asked around about the change trays, and the reasons I’ve heard for avoiding placing the change directly into the patrons hand vary:

1. It’s just a more refined way of exchanging money.
2. Germs – this way they don’t have to actually touch your hand
3. They’ve probably done it that way for a long time and just do it out of tradition.
4. When they paid for things in Lira, making change resulted in more bills/coins, and it was hard to manage that much in a person’s hand. The tray lets the patron pick up the money at their leisure.

Since I couldn’t reach any kind of consensus, I turned to the trusty Google machine. While the germs response was most prominent, it seems like one of those cultural trends that simply can’t be pinned down to one reason. Regardless, I’ve heard both positive and negative responses to this new way of exchanging money. For me, the verdict is still out, but I’m hoping to stop instinctively holding out my hand before my final day here in Italy! Who knew exchanging money would be one of the hardest challenges I’ve faced while acclimating to a new culture.

Dov’e via Verdi?

by Christine Hinrichs (Little Rock, AR)
, I traveled with several of my classmates to Venice. On Saturday, another student and I decided to take an early train back to Pesaro so I could take some photos for the story I was working on and so we could spend some time at the beach. What was supposed to be a leisurely day turned into a slightly stressful experience of attempting to get directions by communicating with individuals who spoke a language that was foreign to me.

Between trying to find the train station again after getting lost in Bologna and trying to find Matteo’s hair salon in Pesaro, I ended up asking many different individuals for directions. It seemed like each person would communicate a different direction. It wasn't until later in the afternoon that I figured out why following directions had become so difficult for us and why we had trouble finding the correct location.

I asked a woman, “Dov'e via Verdi?” She responded in English. “Go right,” she said, while emphatically gesturing to the left with her hand. I pointed to the left. “Si,” she replied. The woman was attempting to communicate in my language, but she had her words for left and right confused. Because there was a difference between what she meant by right and what I meant by right, it led to an experience of cultural mismatch.


by Jessica Stauffer (Spokane, WA)
, I was excited as I scanned the menu and noticed the seeming endless choices for pizzas. I was anxious to try a pepperoni pizza (my favorite kind of pizza) and compare it to the pizza I’ve had in the US. The menu had an actual pizza titled “pepperoni”. Perfect! I slapped the menu closed very pleased that I found exactly what I wanted. A little while later a pizza arrived to only peppers but no pepperoni. I was disappointed as I was hungry and expecting pepperoni. I never considered that pepperoni might mean peppers in Italy. I kept an open mind and dove into the pizza which turned out to be delicious. After contemplating the experience, I am glad I made the mistake. I learned not to make assumptions about the meaning of a particular word and because I likely would never have tried a pizza with just peppers. What a delicious mistake!

The Rick Steves Factor: Are We Contributing?

by Jackie Kerns (Spokane, WA)
WHY ARE WE ATTRACTED to Cagli I ask? Is it the genuine smiles from people like Mimmi who owns the cafe on the corner, the fact you can order a pannio and pay later if you do not have the euro or is it the crisp, clean and cool air on the mountain that casts an italian shadow over the piazza?

Perhaps all three can be attributed to this immediate affinity for the village, but one things is for sure, Cagli is so removed from reality, tourists and what we are used to and it makes me love this village. There is no english spoken here, no tourists with maps or foreigners stopping every four yards to take a photo of the next place or thing of interest written in the latest edition of the highly acclaimed Rick Steves travel books. Instead we are left to venture out on our own. We are forced to meet the locals who call Cagli home and we are met with the challenge to uncover the treasures and mysteries through wandering the cobblestone imbedded roads and making sense of this 13th century town.

But I wonder how long will it take for the village of Cagli to fall into the same tourism trap as the rest of the charming areas of Italy. The Cinque Terre known for its mystique and nautical beauty is covered with tourists. When word gets out about these tiny and charming villages foreigners seem to flock to these places to do the same as us and get away from it all. I hope that by reporting on this village both through journalism and photojournalism and by telling our tales when we get home that Cagli does not change.

I fear that one day I run into Rick Steves and talk to him about Cagli because I know that his gift for writing and description would be an instant seller and that Cagli would become another one of Italy’s places of interest and allure.

Completely Amazing

by Danielle Gruden (Boise, ID)
SO FAR IN MY JOURNEY I have been hesitant to jump into the cultural experience. I feel like I am standing the top of a high-dive with my hands over my eyes, looking down through a small peep hole between my fingers. It looks amazing, but I feel under-prepared and a little bit uncomfortable. Today I feel like I finally made a leap.

The lady, Patritsia, whom I will be interviewing for my profile piece - speaks no English. To make the situation more dramatic - I speak very little Italian. I had not expected such a confusing exchange of words and a whirlwind of phrases and hand gestures.

I felt semi-prepared going into it. I had written down what to say in Italian - with scribbles and notes jotted down around each word so I knew how to pronounce it. As I tried to spill out each word as eloquently as possible I found myself posing like a deer-in-the-headlights. It was almost as if I had created a new dialect or perhaps even a new language all together. It was like I opened my mouth but nothing came out; as if I tried to use my words but air was all that escaped. With a flapping of my arms and the continual opening of my Italian and English dictionary, a message was finally conveyed.

Although I was frustrated at times, the end result was amazing. Without the sole use of words as a means to connect and communicate, verbal communication took over and allowed a transfer of understanding to take place. I since feel more comfortable “jumping” because with each moment like this that occurs I am able to connect, pick up words and phrases, and also engage with someone from a completely different country - and it feels completely amazing.

Posso gioccare?

by Angela McNutt (Spokane, WA)
WHERE MY LACK of Italian failed this evening, a soccer ball picked up the slack. At the end of my first street stroll of Cagli, I returned to Casa Lapis to find two younger boys kicking a soccer ball back and forth. Desiring for aerobic activity I walked toward them to ask, “Posso gioccare?” Two smiles and two yeses greeted my inquiry. Introductions out of the way, the oldest brother, Andrea, spoke a little English but was too embarrassed to speak. His English, I’m sure, is much better than my Italian. At a failed attempt in asking if they each played on a team, we all shrugged our shoulders in unison and played on, void in conversation, but united in action as the ball found its way back and forth, back and forth, amongst our feet.

The Hospital Visit

by Vicki Hertz (Spokane, WA)
PERSPECTIVE. Look up, look down. I did to see my ankles swellen well beyond reasonal proportions. Fleshy grapefruits come to mind. As the day unfolded, mineature strawberries sprinked the pair of grapefruits. Ignoring the develpment became tantemount to ignorance. The Shreck Scale officially came into play, and the question became, "To go to the hospital, or not to go to the hospital." After a number of conversations regarding the symptoms that were excalating and multiplying, we decided to head in the direction of the emergency room, Dr. Caputo graciously in tow.

There, we received an unaccustomed welcome, at least from the expectations of an American. We navigated to empty hallways until we found the nurse who guided us to the reception area. There we waited for only a few moments. No forms, no fellow wounded, no soundtrack of cough, moans, or sorrowfilled sighs attempting to attract attention where attention is all too scarce. Before any substantial conversation could be launched, the nurse reappeared and invited us into the room where an examination table and doctor awaited. Dr. Caputo translated the reason we were there as I demonstrated the overripe condition of my feet. Right away the doctor invited me to make myself comfortable on the examination bed. He carefully tested for points of pain, visually surveying the extentent of the swelling. Then he instructed the nurse to prepare two shots which she promptly and expertly administered. The doctor explained to Dr. Caputo that we were to we wait twenty minutes in the waiting room for the medications to begin their work and to be sure I had no adverse effects. So we did. Twenty minutes later the nurse invited us back into the examination room where the doctor once again examined my feet. After determining that there were no signs of negative repercusions from the medicine, the nurse applied a topical ointment to my feet. We were given a written perscription and sent on our way with advice to return if the condition worsened over the course of the next two days, which it did not, so no return became necessary. Ecco!

Amazing. Reassuring. Efficient. And, by the way, effective.

What did I learn? Why in the world does our system need to be so complicated, excruciatingly inconvinient, expensive, and therefore exclusive? I can only imagine what a visitor to our country who experienced such symptoms would experience if they chose to go to an emergency room after a fellow travelor informed them that the considition could be symtomatic of a potentially serious condition. At the very least I can express my gratitude for the kind, care and reassurance I received throught this health system.

Check, please!

by Vanessa Dunham (Los Angeles, CA)
IT IS DIFFICULT FOR ME to settle in and savor my coffee before I pay the tab, let alone before I know how much it will cost. I have questions that came with me across the Atlantic. Will I have enough money? What if I do not have time to find someone and ask for il conto to pay the check? Do people at the café trust me to pay after I enjoy my cappuccino? In the U.S., I first look at a menu and take in the details before ordering. I know the prices. I know my size options. I know what sounds interesting for next time. The custom at most Italian cafés is to order at the counter, then head outside to sit and wait. While my coffee is prepared, I am free to enjoy my surroundings. I have time to chitchat with friends, meditate on the view of the piazza and listen to birds flutter through the sky above. As soon as I immerse myself in these surroundings, I stop caring about how much my coffee will cost. “The now” is what matters. I connect to the moment through conversation, through observation, through interaction. A ceramic cup filled with velvety foam clinks it’s way to my table. Instead of worrying about the bill, I think about making this moment last as long as I can.


by Tim Churchill (Spokane, WA)
SHOPPING AT THE MARKET was an experience I could write a whole story about. The little things are what struck me the most. Weighing fruit created a bit of stress for me as a large line began growing when I realized that I had to weigh the fruit and get a price tag on it before getting into the checkout line. While my wife ran to the back of the store to weigh the fruit, and put price tags on it, I was surprised by the patience the customers had for my mistake. They stood quietly, with smiles on their faces. Along with weighing the fruit, it took longer than usual because gloves were required to be used while touching each piece, another change I witnessed that was small, yet large in my memory.

My largest confusion has been the language barrier. Often, I do not give the customer service representatives enough credit for how much English they know. I embarrassed myself slightly as I thought the server was trying to get me to buy more than one pastry so I kept saying “no”. However, he was asking me if he wanted the pastry “to go” in English. His accent was a bit of dissonance I took for his Italian language. Yet, it was me not paying close enough attention.

An Experience to Learn From

by Steve Hertz (Spokane, WA)
MY FIRST EXPERIENCE with an event of cultural dissonance on this trip happened our second day in Italy while taking a day and a half trip to Siena. As the lunch hour approached we found ourselves near the main piazza of Il Compo to dine. We picked an outside sidewalk café that gave us a spectacular view of one of Italy’s most renowned piazzas. We picked a prime spot, one that gave us a terrific perspective. It seemed like the prelude to the perfect Italian meal experience. We sat ourselves, and as our waitress approached us, we had decided on what read to be an outstanding pizza. The young lady, with hands on her hips, nose in the air, and tapping her toes, was as impatient and rude as anyone I’ve experienced in a long while. She reluctantly took our order with maybe two words and left quickly. She soon returned, served our meal, we ate very tentatively, paid our bill and left. Not sure if we had done something wrong, somehow angered her, or that she had had enough of the “American-Tourist”…whatever the case, it was very disturbing to us both. But non-the-less, an experience to learn from.

Do You Need a Taxi?

by Leslie Simmons (Burbank, CA)
NOW THAT I'VE BEEN IN ITALY for exactly a week, and learned some key phrases and words, I’m more confident with approaching and asking for things. But when I arrived in Rome and the next day Florence, I felt disconnect despite encountering many people who spoke English. This started from the moment I stepped off the plane in Rome and was approached by a man who asked if I needed a taxi. Of course I needed a taxi, I was carrying two giant bags – much bigger than I needed – and wasn’t about to lug them onto the train or a bus into town. So, I said, “Yes, please.” As we start walking past the taxis lined up outside the terminal, I realize I’ve agreed to a car service. I’ve lived in New York and I was just there the week before and had the same exact encounter at JFK Airport. There, I brushed off the guy. I knew the cabs have a flat fee. I knew all I needed to pay was $45 to get into Manhattan and to the hotel my work puts me up in every time I stay there. So why did I not respond the same way to this man, Alesio, who saw I was American and clearly not in my element? Once inside and whizzing away from the airport, I asked Alesio if there was a flat fee. He pulls out the taxi card: 85 Euro. “Wow. That’s expensive,” I said. “Well, it’s 35 kilometer,” he responded. Maybe he said it was farther than that, but I wasn’t paying attention, since my mind was racing trying to convert Euro to Dollar. I finally realized, this taxi ride was going to cost at least $100. Gulp. I got taken. I tried to make good of the situation. Alesio pointed out some buildings – Mussolini built this building that looks like St. Paul’s Basilica and when I asked him about all the graffiti on the buildings and walls, he explained, “Graffiti is either political, or about soccer … or for love.” Later, the man at the front desk, Diego, told me it should have only cost me 45 Euro for a taxi from the airport. Yes, I thought, but then I wouldn’t have known about the graffiti, I suppose.


by Crissy Benage (Spokane, WA)
LAST NIGHT I met Romano at the piazza. A group of us students were relaxing, drinking win, and eating gelato. When we saw Romano sitting alone a short distance away, we invited him to join us. He immediately accepted and moved to our table to talk and get to know the American students. Romano has come to piazza most nights for many years, and has gotten to know many students who study here. He asked us for our names and repeated them in an effort to remember them and to make sure he was pronouncing them correctly. It was touching to see his interest in our new group of students, because he must meet all the students as they move through Cagli, and it takes great effort to get to know them all. Romano showed us an important slice of Italian (more specifically Calgisian) culture that takes special interest in the person as a story.

When he came to me in the circle of names, he exclaimed “You are the sister of the girl from Marquette!” I was surprised, but since my sister had just been in Cagli, I told him that yes, that is correct. He was so excited to meet me and promised to buy me gelato tomorrow. He said that while he was meeting the other students that he was looking for me, and now he sees that my sister and I look alike. I was surprised by his instant excitement because he had never met me before that moment, and already he is insisting that we get together again soon. My sister told me that she tried to give Romano money to buy me gelato when I got here, but he refused and said “No, I will buy for her.” Again, this is an important aspect of Italian life, where a resident of a town has not met the family member of a friend, but instantly feels connected to that unknown person. Romano knew that we would be friends, and promised signs of that friendship before we even met.

This example of like in Cagli shows a collective caring for people, and a connectivity that is lessened in the United States. If this scenario were set in the US, the resident of the town might say “Oh ya, I’ll get to know her,” but probably would not have promised to spend money on an unknown person, or be so sure of a friendship with that person. In the US scenario, that resident may not even end up meeting the “sister” or family relative who followed, but simply giving lip service to the friend, promising to meet their loved one. In this instance of friendship, I have learned a significant difference between Italian culture of friendship and the over-simplified American notion of “knowing” someone. The Italians welcome new friends with open arms, and decide immediately to like them. Americans, instead, decide their friendship based on the individual person with little thought to loyalty to other friends.

Communicating in a Foreign Culture

by Christine Hinrichs (Little Rock, AR)
THERE ARE MANY THINGS about life in Cagli that I love. I loved the laid back atmosphere, the chance to hang out in the piazza, and the delicious wines, pastas, and cheeses that abound here. For the most part I find I can get a general idea across to someone in order to meet my basic needs. For example, I can sucessfully order a panino and ask for the check. I can greet someone and ask how they are doing. The difficulty, as I found yesterday, comes when I need to be able to use more than basic phrases to communicate an idea.

Tuesday morning I woke up and my left eye was entirely red. It was extremely irritated, light sensitive and slightly swollen. During our break from class, I attempted to go to the pharmacy and explain that I wanted an antibiotic for my eye. Using a few words and gestures, the pharmacist understood I wanted eye drops. However, when she asked further questions, I was unable to figure out what she was saying. In the end I ended up with some over-the-counter drops to help with red eye reduction, instead of an antibiotic. Fortunately, I was able to take a translator with me to the pharmacy later that day, explain what was wrong with my eye, and get the antibiotic. But had I been on my own, perhaps I might never have gotten the medical attention I needed.

My Impressions

by Lisa Emig (Cincinnati, OH)
SO WHAT are my impressions of Cagli….

This morning I awoke at 6AM to the smell of fresh bread. That is a wonderful beginning to the day.

Some of the residents are very friendly, some less so. This may be due to the actions of the previous group of students who were here. Personally, I found it difficult to begin to approach people for the photography lesson but was surprised to find most people seem flattered to be chosen. A few of the older women asked me not to take their photo and one guy told me I’d have to pay him. It must be pretty funny to watch use take pictures of all the “normal” things they see every day. Some of the older residents slow down when they see you have a camera almost as if to silently ask you to take their picture.

The teenagers seem much like teenagers at home; Fashion conscious and mildly amused by our presence. They are kind regardless and respond to “Ciao”. They seem more respectful and less rowdy, less gregarious. And thank goodness all the men/boys where the pants around their waists!

Older people have relationships they have built over time and meet at the piazza or at the caffe. The isolation that exists for many American elderly doesn’t seem to exist here.

No one seems too busy to stop, no one seems to busy at all. There is no sense of urgency that I can see. The afternoon pausa is still blowing my mind. It makes total sense but I try to see the US operating this way…

In Florence and Cagli both there is a lack of chain stores. There is a farmacia on every corner but not a Walgreens on every corner. The stores are small and personal and it makes you wonder how they can make a living with such a small business. I guess less inventory, no salaries and benefits for employees, less rent due to less space and you specialize in what you love. You have personal service because you know that person. Is it the small town, the sense of community or the history associated with their relationships?

I think I may be experiencing a little of the culture issues. When I wasn’t feeling well yesterday, I felt a little annoyed with the people speaking Italian outside the window.

Communication is challenging and like everything else, some residents try harder than others. One gentleman stopped me to ask if I was Americana and told me he visited San Francisco. And he asked if I like Italy and did I like it better than the US. He was joking and was such a pleasant man. While out taking pictures yesterday, a little boy who was standing in a doorway saw me and jumped into the shot and said “cheese!”. It was so funny. His dad reprimanded him and told him to come back. I laughed and told him I had two kids too….well, I told him two and motioned to his son. Like Chris said, there is a lot of commonality between people.


by Justin Ortman (San Carlos, CA)
ON THE DAY of the Feast of San Giovanni Bautista, Jackie, Lynne and I had been watching a broadcast of the last game that Italy would play in the 2010 world cup. We were absorbing the nationalism and culture around us as the Italian anthem played. The first half had ended and a crowd had begun to form just outside of the patio. Many men dressed in fancy multi-colored apparel that was obviously not of this century, began to march as the trumpets blew and the drums pounded. We decided that something greater than the game was worth our attention as the parade of John the Baptist started. Wanting to see more than just the tail-end of the parade, we scurried through the winding streets of Florence and landed in the shade of the Baptistry across from the Duomo.

Puzzled we wondered why there triumphant trumpets were moving away from our intercept point for the parade… wanting to be certain that we wouldn’t miss the full festivities, Jackie asked a vendor at a small cart if the parade was coming this way and this began the disconnect… attempt after attempt was made, and it ended in the cart vendor confirming that, yes… we were at the Duomo. I then decided that I would try my luck with a local Florentine Police officer; “does the parade come through here?” was a simple enough question, but little did I realize the officer spoke no English whatsoever, not did my question contain a single trans-cultural cognate by which he could understand… I then attempted Pa-Ra-DAY?… which then left an even more puzzled look, and him repeating, Parade”? and followed that up with some Italian that I had never encountered before… He was then called away to deal with some sort of situation, and our triad was left more puzzled than before. Needless to say, the parade of saint John the Baptist, does not end in front of the Florentine Duomo.


by Robert Kunkle (Garner, NC)
We had an instance of communication dissonance our first day in Cagli. Still searching to replace the cloths from our lost luggage, we found ourselves in a woman’s clothing boutique. Donna found a pair of slacks she thought might fit, but given the high price tag, thought it best to first try them on since we were somewhat unsure how to convert from US to European sizes. When she attempted to request to try the slacks on our request was misconstrued and the request was denied. This was puzzling to us since we could see the fitting rooms. We decided not to further argue the point and decided instead to try other stores. Once we exhausted our other options we decided to look up “May I try this on” in the Italian phrase book and return to the store. Our request was immediately met with a “Si” and we understood our original request was misunderstood as a request to return the item should it not fit.


by Sara Baughman (Coralville, IA)
I MET A MAN TODAY who seemed to know a better way to love and be loved in return. He sat quietly on the piazza while I slowly sipped my caffé at Mimi’s. I watched him as he sipped his drink and read the morning paper. But each time a Cagli resident passed, he halted his reading and drinking to give a cheerful greeting. It almost became a choreographed dance of hellos and goodbyes, and I couldn’t help but wonder if his caffé was even warm as he brought to his lips for a brief sip before he stopped to offer another bongiorno to the next “friend” who walked his way.

It didn’t take time to recognize the time and age reflected in his eyes, and I wondered what lives he touched and why he cares so much about the people in this town. Even though I was curious, I never set my caffé down or asked someone nearby about the charming man in the square. I didn’t know the right words to say, so I simply watched him a few more moments before I walked away.

As I sit here now, I hope I’ll find him in the piazza again with the courage to greet him with even a simple introduction. I doubt his kindness for the people of Cagli would be held back from an American student with a poor accent using an Italian-English-Spanish hybrid language, but I’ll never know until I force myself out of my comfort zone to learn if this man’s sincerity crosses cultural – and language – boundaries.


by Jessica Stauffer (Spokane, WA)
AS THE PLANE TOUCHED DOWN in Florence my exhaustion is overtaken by excitement. I look out the airplane window and realize I’ve landed in what feels like a whole different world. I catch a cab at the airport. The cab driver turns around and rattles off what I think means “Where to?” I immediately froze as the little Italian that I learned seemed to go right out the window. I sat there with my mouth open and handed him the paper with the hotel name and address. He glances at the paper, knows immediately where to go then proceeds to take off and zoom down the narrow streets of Florence. The crowded streets are the size of alley ways. So crowded in fact that I am unsure how the cab driver effortlessly weaves in and out of the heavy traffic. I arrive at the hotel and am relieved to find out that the staff speaks English. After check-in I head up to my room and notice only one bed which I am to share with a stranger I’ve never met. As excited as I am, I already feel out of my element. Familiarity is gone and my creature comforts are missing. I am filled with anxiety and little bit home sick. I did not at all expect to feel homesick since I have been aching to travel for as long as I can remember. At this point I am overwhelmed with exhaustion and decide to take a nap until my roommate arrives. As I lie down and take a deep breath I smile to myself and think, “Wow, I’m finally here!”