Italian Onomatopoeia

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:28 pm

It’s been hot and muggy here in Italy (and from what I hear, in the US as well). I read in the paper the other day that Italians were doing what they could in the “afa.” It was a new word for me, so I had to look it up.

afa [à-fa]: humid, oppressive heat; suffocating air.

It’s such a good word to describe the heat. It sounds like it’s all you can do just to say the word without sweating.

The theory of Italian driving

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:24 am

So I’m enrolled in driving school right now. After 1 year of residency, American driver’s licenses are no longer valid here and the only way to get an Italian license is to go to school.

The rules are basically the same as America, with a few notable differences. For example: following distance. We were discussing the distance that you should leave between you and the car in front of you. During bad weather, the distance obviously increases. Then the instructor threw me a curve ball. He said that if you happen to be taking any medications that cause drowsiness, you need to increase the distance. I kind of thought … hmm … I would have said don’t drive.

And then he said that if he had gone out with friends and had a few drinks, he should increase the following distance. I think I may have audibly gasped. So drinking and driving is OK, as long as you give yourself plenty of room.

I should point out that Italians don’t often drink to the point of drunkenness. Drinking is different here. It seems that Americans drink a lot more when they drink. Italians tend to drink with a meal. However, any alcohol is going to impair your driving skills, isn’t it?


Only the most committed need attend

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:03 pm

Tonight I had the pleasure of attending a free jazz concert. Marcus, Matt, Josh, Joel and I met at the university to head up, and up, and up the hill to the lighthouse where the concert was scheduled. We arrived in time to get a pretty good spot in the seats that they had set up. The concert was supposed to start at 9:30 PM, but started late because the band was locked outside the gates and someone had to let them in!

The MC started with the usual thank yous and then said she was really excited for this concert. It ended a week-long jazz festival here in Ancona. Many of the concerts were held downtown in one of the main piazzas. This was the only one held at the lighthouse. It was her favorite because only the most committed jazz fans would make the trek up the hill to attend. Several times during the concert Josh leaned over to me and said, “You feel pretty cultured right now, don’t you?”

We were treated with a very nice quintet – The Gianni Cazzola Smell Quintet. The drummer has been playing for over 50 years! As the new lighthouse periodically lit up the old lighthouse just behind the stage, I felt blessed to live in such a “cultured” place.


It’s not just the young people

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:18 am

Today, my team leader’s landlord called me because he hadn’t been able to get in touch with him. I told him to come on over and we would try and find a different number. Harold & Enid Fowler were over for a visit. After I wrote down the number, he asked the Fowlers if they, too, were pastors. Actually … he asked if Harold was a priest.

Over the next 20 minutes I got to hear what I think was an accurate summary of how Italians view the church. His review wasn’t pretty: promiscuous priests and people who confess their sins one day and walk out the door just as mean as they were before were on the top of his list. He said his sister tells him he needs to go to mass, but he doesn’t see the point.

I read lots of articles about religion, and most say that youths are leaving the Catholic church in droves in Italy. But this conversation (which Enid said she’d heard over and over for the 40 years they have lived here) seems to indicate it’s not just the young people who aren’t happy


Campioni del Mondo!

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:13 am

It all came down to kicks, but Italy won 5-3 in shootouts. As soon as the last kick went in, Ancona erupted. It was unlike anything I have ever seen (or heard!). There were fireworks, horns honking until all hours of the morning. People were dressed in Italian flags. Impromptu parades of fans marched through the streets. I found a video clip online of a guy in Rome that stuck his webcam out the window to record the reaction of the fans in the streets.

So despite a nasty head butt that knocked Materazzi on the ground (and sent Zidane to the locker room with a red card on his farewell game), the Azzurri pulled it off.


World Cup Fever

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:36 am

Tonight is the final game of the 2006 World Cup. Italy v France. In an hour and a half Italians will all be glued to a TV somewhere rooting for the “azzurri.” I’m not much of a sports fan but it is hard to not get caught up in the emotion. If Italy wins tonight, the city will erupt in one huge party.

I read an article online that said that Italy has turned into one big stadium (because so many cities are putting up big screens in the squares for people to watch the game). The same article said that if Italy wins they are expecting a baby boom in nine months!

Italians LOVE soccer.


Driving School

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:16 pm

So there’s an interesting little quirk in Italian law – American drivers licenses aren’t valid after you have been a resident in Italy for one year. And in order to get a license here, you have to go to driving school.

So last week, Marcus and I took the plunge and signed up. After paying €300 to enroll, €50 each for the driving test and the written test, about €40 in taxes, €25 for a medical exam, and about €15 for a stamp to certify the medical exam, I was in! For those of you keeping track that’s about $600!

But here’s the rub: class attendance is optional. As long as I can pass both tests, I don’t have to step foot in the classroom. You do, however, have to pay the fees – even if you don’t attend. Does this sound like a scam to anyone else?

So I’ll probably attend a few classes for the language learning aspect if nothing else. My vocabulary about driving is pretty small, so it will be helpful to learn some of those words. Soon I, along with all the other foreigners and 18 year-olds, will soon be plunged into the world of full and complete stops and yield signs.

The odd thing is, I barely even notice any more when these silly little quirks of Italian culture show up.


Some days, it all just clicks

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:34 pm

One thing that I have never really found a way to explain to people who have never visited here, is how much time we can spend on simple errands. At first I thought that we were just inefficient since we are foreigners. But I’m slowly realizing that Italians are just used to things taking a long time.

But some days, everything just clicks. The other day I had several errands that I had to run. I needed to pay some bills, fill out some forms at driving school (look for plenty of blog entries with that one!), and send a package. And somehow, I was able to get all of them done in record time. In just a few short hours I whipped around town. And on my way home I remember having this little grin on my face because I felt like I had accomplished so much.

I know it sounds like a silly thing, but it really made my day!