05.22.06

Not jumping to conclusions

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:56 pm

I’ve noticed something about myself. Whenever I learn of some new cultural tidbit or notice some thing that Italians do differently than us, my first reaction is usually somewhat negative: “Well that’s weird” or “That’s backwards.” But the longer I am here, the more I realize that most cultural differences have a logical explanation.

For example, Italians eat dinner very late in the evening. 8 PM is probably the earliest, and the further south you go, the later it is – up till 9:30 or 10 PM. We have always been so baffled by this. How do you get your kids to bed at a decent hour for school the next morning? Even restaurants aren’t open until 7 or so, and they probably aren’t really ready to serve people at that time even if they are open.

But then I overheard someone talking at a dinner I went to the other day. The weather has started to heat up here. Not many homes have air conditioning, and if they do it’s certainly not central – perhaps only one or two rooms are cooler. One woman was talking about how she’s not looking forward to cooking this summer because the kitchen is so hot in her house. And then it hit me – I think one reason why they wait to eat dinner is because by then, the kitchen is starting to cool down and it’s not so uncomfortable to cook.

I could be wrong on this one, and it could be one of those things where no one really knows why they do it that way. But I am going to try and hold back my initial, negative reaction until I explore things a little deeper.

05.20.06

Un Bel Casino

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:54 pm

Tonight Chloe’s class had a party at a local restaurant. I spoke with the class representative, who said she had booked a room for 50. There were at least 60 people there, and it was very crowded with only 50. After about 15 minutes of back and forth (why can’t we sit outside? that’s what we did last year!) someone had the idea to put all the kids on one side, and the parents on the other side of the room.

And that’s when chaos broke out. The kids were having a great time. They all whipped out their PSPs and GameBoy DSs. Kids were shooting at each other with toy guns. A game of tag broke out for a little while. It was CRAZY. I was nearly shouting as I spoke with the parents around me, and a noisy room makes it really hard for us foreigners to understand what’s going on!

I would describe it with an Italian phrase I’ve picked up – un bel casino – beautiful chaos (but don’t ask what the literal definition is!). It’s crazy. It’s noisy. But it’s definitely beautiful.

05.17.06

The Italian Sun

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:41 am

I think Spring is starting to give way to Summer here in Ancona. Heidi took the down comforter off the bed. My neighbor across the street was laying out in the afternoon sun on his balcony yesterday. People don’t stare as much if I wear short sleeves. Every now and then you hear about people going to the beach. I even saw a kid on a moped wearing capris the other day (apparently capris are still in for the men this year – what a strange culture this is!).

05.10.06

I hope they don’t start wrestling

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:19 am

Today Jason and I volunteered a little time to build a set for a school play that his oldest will be in (they were clearly desperate for volunteers to ask us!). As Jason and I were cutting and measuring wood, the four ladies that came to help broke out in a pretty heated discussion. There was a lot of yelling and quite a bit of hand waving. I caught the gist of most of their argument, and they really didn’t seem to be talking a deep subject. But they were so passionate about it!

When it was all over, they all went back to chatting about their kids and gossiping about their neighbors. It was like nothing even happened.

All of which leaves the American who was awkwardly trying to ignore it all puzzled. Were they really fighting? Were they that angry? Were anyone’s feelings hurt? Or was it just the stereotypical Italian way of getting a point across?

05.07.06

Baby Steps

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:44 am

Today was a teensy little milestone for me. Jason asked me last week if I would do the communion meditation during Life Group. No big thing really, but I was kind of nervous. I wrote everything down just in case I froze! It wasn’t half bad, I think. Heidi said she saw someone tear up, but I interpret that as her crying because the foreigner was butchering her language!

Baby steps to learning Italian!

05.05.06

Dialects

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:56 am

I may have mentioned before something that I find fascinating about the Italian language: dialects. In recent years, a “standard” version of the language has become more popular, but many people, particularly older Italians or those living outside of large cities, speak only dialect. And the dialects can be so different from each other that people with different dialects won’t be able to understand each other.

On our trip to Sicily last week we asked a taxi driver to help us learn a little Sicilian dialect. Sicily is in some ways more Arab than Italian, so when he started speaking dialect I didn’t understand a single syllable that came out of his mouth. There was barely even a hint of the sound of Italian.

I’ve also noticed that many people consider dialect to be uneducated and maybe something along the lines of a “country-bumpkin” thing to do. But if you take the time to learn a little dialect, you earn a ton of respect in many Italians’ eyes.