Saturday, June 27, 2015

Feeding the Soul in Italy

by Shea’lyn Swan 
One of the first mistakes to assume is that the power of a woman is minimal in the Italian culture. After having made the mistake of paying for drinks that were already taken care of, I successfully insulted the kind-hearted soul who paid for them. This wasn’t the first time this behavior has occurred since being in Italy. The irony is the two incidences were with American individuals. Being a strong, independent woman, I am not used to allowing others the privilege of showing their kindness towards me. Being inhibited in this way has also created the roadblock of getting out amongst the local Cagliese and opening myself up to their kindness. The simple observance of behaviors and interactions with each other is the closest I’ve been able to draw myself to this small town, and, like my own small town, I have not allowed anyone into my inner sanctum.

The overwhelming feeling of being lost and out of place, the uninvited visitor to the party, has reached around my shoulders more than once or twice, a delicate push-pull feeling. Pushing myself to acclimate, while pulling myself within to retreat to the only safe space I know – the deep recesses of my own brain.

I have spent a few short weeks in a tiny flat of an apartment shared with Allison, making this our home away from home. White and grey marble floors, brown window shutters, and twin beds set in the middle of a room are what we come to after a day spent filling our brains, and hopefully hearts, with the sounds, smells, and sights of Italian life.

Morning sun rises above the Pesaro and Urbino hills of the le Marche (pronounced Lay Mar Kay) region that surrounds us. Hills with a vibrant green canopy of Cyprus trees, pine nuts, and a ground covered in sage-grass. There is a ridge that rises behind the city, with a lone tree at its top. To ascend the ridge and reach the tree you must navigate on all four most of the way. Once you reach the top of the ridge though, the view is like something from a painting. Sunlight shines down on a quiet city that has been slumbering for a short few hours. I have only managed to make the ascent twice in person, but make it every morning now in my mind.

In the piazza of an area that dates back to the 6th century, caffés are opening their doors and pouring the sweet nectar I call coffee! Men stand at the counter, ordering quickly a macchiato or cappuccino. NEVER will you be allowed to order anything more than a single shot, without at least being laughed at; THAT is an American thing! This was one of many moments of embarrassment for me. A golden flaked, buttery croissant filled with lemon or vanilla crème accompanies the frothed heart cappuccino I usually have for breakfast. Small, two-door cars, and buzzy sounding Vespas click and rumble across the cobblestone street that surrounds the Piazza di Cagli as I sit at an outdoor table soaking it all in.

The one universal that has not changed for me was the language of music. On several occasions I have had gentle giggles and full belly laughs at my pronunciation of words gone wrong like as asking “to sing/music” rather than “to pay” for my café. One thing I cannot mess up though is swaying to the notes of a trumpet and drum. Our second to last night here was spent eating dinner at the walls of 13th century Castello di Frontone. Dinner commenced with singing folk music at the table with Dario Toccaceli – an artist who has played with Pete Segar.

To our surprise, a “big band” of seven men came into the Taverna Della Rocca playing boisterously. Within seconds my soul felt at peace again. THIS is my language! Without realizing I was up dancing and clapping to the beat. As the music and group processed outside into the little walkway the band played “When the Saints Go Marching In”. Swaying to the song I was pulled into the center by one of the trumpet players and spun arm-in-arm. With the moon high in the sky Jupiter and Venus shone down on this sight that only fueled my passion to express the language I know best. Surrounded by friends and strangers, Dario and I sang an impromptu rendition of “When the Saints” that moved me to tears. This was one of the few moments in the last two weeks I felt satiated with joy and peace, not stressed with deadlines and inadequacies.

Trash Talk

by Leona George-Davidson
During my time here in Cagli I have not been able to deal with taking out the trash. This has happened to me at home as well. It occurs when I am emotionally, spiritually and physically overwhelmed. In this case I have the added components of intellectual and cultural overwhelm as well.

I am fortunate that my apartment mate has the brain capacity to sort and take out the trash, otherwise we would be swimming in bags of garbage all over the place.

On the flip side, I have had the capacity to keep our electronic gear organized, turn out the lights every time we leave a room, and to maintain the opening and closing of the windows and shutters during the days and nights for airflow and temperature management.

It fascinates me that both my apartment mate and I are experiencing overwhelm, but that it manifests in different areas. There is a lot going on at once: learning a new language and new customs, getting to know the people and layout of Cagli, getting to know our school mates, managing the school work and schedule, and trying to keep the basics of staying well fed, clean, and rested.

With all of this simultaneous input (immersion will do that to you), it is no wonder that I just can’t deal with figuring out how the trash is sorted and disposed of in this community. It is also no wonder that my apartment mate doesn’t want to deal with figuring out how to operate the shutters. Sometimes you just have to let some things go. Thankfully we have each other’s backs – this is a great relief – we have easily fallen into a great level of care for one another.

So, when our trash piled up in the kitchen and bathroom my apartment mate would patiently sort through it and take it out to the trash station (where she carefully watched the local folk to see how they did it) and I would keep our apartment cool and breezy during the days and warm and breezy at night.

Here is the trash layout:

Up the street from our apartment, and lined neatly against the stone wall, there stands a station of nine trash and recycling bins. There are many of these “trash” stations around town, and this particular set is shared between the neighbors on our small city block of Via Lapis in Cagli. To a newcomer or someone who is not well versed in the Italian trash system (or to someone like me who is overwhelmed) it might be daunting to figure out what goes where.

It goes like this: Metallics (metal, aluminum, etc.) go in the one white can; glass goes in either of the two blue cans; and organic refuse (food scraps, etc.) goes the two brown bins. The three dumpster type receptacles are for other items: the yellow dumpster is for plastic; the red dumpster is for paper; and the gray dumpster is for anything that doesn’t “belong” in the other bins. Each of these three large dumpsters has a foot operated pedal to make it easier to open the bin when hands are full of bags, bottles, and other trash. There is one additional bin that is used to dispose of cooking oil. It has a small round opening on the top that opens by rotating it clockwise to expose the hole to toss the oil in. However, don’t just pour the oil directly in the hole – instead, put the oil into a metal or glass container with a lid on it, then put that into the bin.

This is a very similar system to ours at home, but with everything else that is new in this immersion experience, it seems so foreign. Can you see how this could make a person’s brain shut down?! Ack! I’ll just let the trash pile up!

There are two things that strike me about Cagli’s system: Unlike the USA where most everyone has their own trash receptacles at their homes, Cagliese share their trash bins out on the street (perhaps this would be like duplex or apartment living in the USA). Additionally, my town, Novato, California, uses what is called “single stream recycling.” Single stream recycling means that everything can be thrown into one bin, which is to be sorted out later at the recycling plant for recycling, repurposing, and disposal. Therefore, at home, I am accustomed to throwing all my recyclables into one bin without the effort of sorting it ahead of time.

I am not exactly sure why the shutter system came easy to me. Perhaps it was because I do temperature management at home with doors and windows (at my house, which is a total of 990 square feet, we do not have an air conditioner and our only heat source is a small gas stove in our living room). It also may be that when I was in Saint Jean Pied de Port, France, a few days before Cagli, I noticed that our landlady had opened the shutters and latched them a certain way during the day. Whatever it was, I figured it out and it was easy for my brain to handle amid all the ruckus of cultural absorption.

Here is how to work the windows and shutters:

First of all the windows and shutters work independently of each other. But, they do have the same type of latch, so at least that is consistent.

To open the latch, it is simply lifted up. Once it is lifted up, it gets pulled away from the window in order to engage the vertical rod which then unlatches the small hook at the bottom of the window. Now that it is un-hooked the window can be pulled open (the windows open into the room).

The shutters work the same, but they open out into the street.

Here is the next tricky part. If you want the shutters open all the way (on a sunny but temperate day), you need to secure them in the open position so they don’t slam in case of wind. There is a small piece of flat metal coming out of the wall of the building that sits just under the bottom of the shutter. On the end of the piece of metal there is a hinge with a curved piece of metal. Once the shutter is in the fully open position, the curved piece of metal gets flipped up and holds the shutter in place.

If you want the shutters partially closed (still a temperate day, but perhaps when the sun is on that side of the building), you just pull them three quarters closed and latch the metal latch which leaves just enough room for air flow, but blocks the sunlight. You can also do this same thing with the windows as well.

Each side of the apartment has different sun angles and one side may be cooler because it faces a narrow alley with heavy stone walls (making that side naturally cooler), the breeze is different on each side of the apartment as well, depending on the directional situation, the size of the street, and the height of the buildings.

My apartment mate and I like air flow at night, so I would always make sure to get the shutters and windows in the right position before bed. I particularly like them open at night, not only for air flow, but also for the sounds and scents that each evening would bring.

I loved hearing the sounds of families they walked through the street going about their nightly lives (often the sound of glass clinking as they deposited their recyclables into the dumpsters and bins), the fast hum of Vespas wizzing by, and my American school mates as they unlocked our front door to come in after a night of wine and gelato in the Piazza.

My absolute favorite night time open window and shutter moment was in the wee hours of two o’clock one morning. I was in bed in the dark, journaling, thinking, and crying from all the stress, and all of the sudden, in wafted two scents, married to each other on the breeze: fresh baked pastries and tiglio trees.


On the very last day of our time in Cagli, as my apartment mate packed for departure, I set about finishing the clean up of our kitchen. My apartment mate had already sorted, bag, bucketed, and basketed all of our trash and I took the bold move of bringing it all down to the trash station. I made four trips in total and was able to get everything into the right bin.

With everything cleaned up and packed, I was ready to head out. I closed the windows and shutters in the kitchen and bedroom, but left the bathroom window and shutter open for my apartment mate since she was still in process of getting ready for her own departure. I called out to her and asked if she would be able to make sure it was shut and latched before she left. She called out in Italian, “Non c’e problema” – “No problem.”

Wow. We came a long way.

In cultural immersion, seemingly simple tasks can become overwhelming. And when they are tasks of infrastructure that are important to daily living, the frustration can mount. The teamwork and care that my apartment mate and I had for one another was wonderful and that is what got us through it – no trash talk between us, only understanding and love.

Family dinner and technology

by Carl N. Hudson 
During dinner with some of our other students, I began to notice differences between our American group and the surrounding Cagliese tables around us. While conversation would sweep between two people, others in our American group were staring at their phones. Looking over at our neighboring Cagliese, almost all individuals were engaged in some form of group conversation.

I thought about how technology has made American citizens more efficient in communicating, therefore more is expected of them to get things done on a constant basis. It appeared to me that the Cagliese prefer to interact with one another face-to-face, which left little room for anything to be misinterpreted when they communicated.

How many times have I asked myself what the person’s attitude was when they wrote an email to me? How much of the message do we lose when we communicate through a device that tunnels a meaning to be conveyed?

The Cagliese community may not need technology as much as Americans do because the person they would like to speak with is just down the street or a five-minute walk. Americans, however, have a tendency to take shelter in their homes unless a task draws them out. While tablets, cell phones, and other communicative devices are a great tool, it should not be the primary tool when engaging other people.

The Piazza

by Jennifer Colton-Jones
Nothing defines life in an Italian city like its piazzas.

One of our required texts, The Italian Way, calls the piazza the “pulse” of the community, and I, familiar with the idea of a town square, thought I understood what that meant. I didn’t.

The piazza is where life happens in Cagli.

In the first light of the morning, the newsstand opens, and the Cagliesi cross the piazza to buy their morning papers. They sit at one of the two cafés on the piazza and drink their cappuccinos and watch the town wake up.

The men of the town gather along “the wall” to watch life in the piazza.

On market days, the piazza fills with vendors, and cars surround the fountain every other day of the week.

When it rains, the sound echoes off the ancient stones while the wind whistles through the shutters.

At night, the buildings and streetlights glow in different shades, keeping the piazza alive even when it’s empty.

Wedding parties march through the piazza from the steps of city hall to their church of choice.

In summer evenings, the piazza closes to vehicular traffic, and people sit at the cafés in peace while children ride their bicycles and tricycles over the cobblestones.

If you want to meet with someone, the answer to “where” is almost always, “In the piazza.”

I will miss the piazza.

I will miss Cagli.

My Senses

by Sally Hess 
In Italy my senses have captured my attention. We had dinner in an ancient restaurant last night, in full view of the open fire upon which our dinner was cooked. Wine flowed and conversation poured forth as we all talked about our trips down to the river, hikes up the mountain, and interactions with Italians. My senses took in the heat from the fire, the gentle lighting, the sounds of laughter and song bouncing off the rough stone walls, and the tastes of carefully crafted, locally-sourced food and wine.

Last week in class, Kris Morehouse read to us from Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. She read the following excerpt, 
Without habit, the beauty of the world would overwhelm us. We’d pass out every time we saw— actually saw— a flower. Imagine if we only got to see a cumulonimbus cloud or Cassiopeia or a snowfall once a century: there’d be pandemonium in the streets. (Doerr, 2008, p unknown)
 I have eaten some spectacular food while I have been in Italy. What I have realized is that lacking a mind-blowing, transformational esserlebnis (German for eating-experience), I never would have known the astonishingly wide range of possibilities. It is not just the dark chocolate gelato or the fried zucchini blossoms served with strawberrried honey and balsamic reduction sauce. It is all sensory experiences. As the first exceptional gelato surged across the sides of my tongue and the roof of my mouth, it was as if I awoke from a deep slumber. My senses came to life and it became a whole-body experience to walk through the piazza with newly-found friends and a small cup of life-changing mandorla gelato. Without the waxy-feeling, artificial-tasting gelato that I also had in Rome, I could not have known or experienced the pandemonium in my mouth of that amazing gelato.

The Youth of Cagli

by Kevin Sexton 
The life of the youth of Cagli appears to be very different from the life of a teenager when I was younger or that of most in America even today. During the day and evening hours the Piazza is alive with daily life, adults going about the day and relaxing in the evening hours enjoying an evening drink of choice. Children play in the Piazza with seemingly minimal supervision. In the later hours, typically after 10 pm, the crowd shifts from older adults to teenagers seemingly in an instant, this is even during the week. In America, from my experience this is when most teens start heading home to meets curfews imposed by parent or guardians,at least winding down the night depending on guidelines that have been put into place. In Italy this is when the teens seem to appear from wherever they have been in hiding for the day. The day and the evenings are for adults but the nights are for the teens of Cagli. It is a very contrast situation from what we have in place in America, here it seems the teens are entrusted to be out later at night to enjoy themselves amongst friends in atmospheres that are almost entirely other teens.

In many regards children are given more freedom at younger ages in Italy, or at least in my experience in Cagli. At 13 children are old enough to drive an Ape’, a mode of transportation similar in looks to a truck but smaller than trucks we see in the US. While an Ape’ is not technically a car, it does give them the freedom to move about town on the roads, something we are not allowed to do in the US until 16.

The experiences on this opportunity to study in another country has opened my eyes to the cultural differences in daily life between two countries. We are different in the ways we go about our days, raise our children, etc. but in the end it seems as the common goal is to live the best life we can, it is just how we choose to do that and what we decide is important to live this life.

The Generosity of the Cagli Community

by Autumn Reagor 
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredibly warm hospitality our group has been shown during our time in Cagli. The people treat us very well and have been very patient with us. Whether it’s the café owners trying to help us learn the language or the smiles from the church parishioners, I’ve never felt more welcome in a new place.

I have thoroughly loved shopping in Cagli. Each small shop is filled with new surprises and beautiful things. My interviewee told me the people of Cagli love beautiful things – I believe her! But what has been the most humbling is all of the gifts we’ve been showered with at the different stores. Whether it’s packets of lotions or an extra candy bar, this community is quick to share. Many of the gifts I purchased were lovingly wrapped and decorated by the shop owners. It’s a small touch that goes a long way.

As we prepare to leave, I’m filled with mixed emotions. I look forward to going home, but I know that I’ll always miss this time and place. It has been such an incredible experience. I’m returning with a full heart, and I hope to carry back the lesson in generosity that I’ve been immersed in for the past two weeks.

Connecting through dissonance

by Melinda Smith
 A few days into the program, and I found myself at a counter trying to order lunch. Usually I had a gaggle of classmates trying to help me piecemeal an Italian sentence together, but this time I was all by myself. At previous cafés, servers had been quick to acknowledge me, and they were gentle with my sparse Italian as they took my order. This particular time, I had to get the server’s attention. I fumbled through my mini Italian-English dictionary to look up the word ‘order’, in effort to ask the waiter if I could order at the counter. I found the word in the dictionary, and I kindly excused myself for interrupting what he was doing. Then, in Italian, I asked the waiter if I could order at the counter. He looked at me funny. A second time, I asked him if I could order some food. Again, he stared at me. I tried asking him a third time. An Italian gentlemen, standing to my right, seemed to understand what I was trying to say. He correctly stated the pronunciation of the word ‘order’, and then the waiter acknowledged that in fact I could order at the counter. The waiter started to take my order. In the middle of taking my order, the waiter left to get a pen and paper. Still standing to my right, the Italian gentlemen looked at me, breathed in and took a long breath out. He relaxed his shoulders and smiled. All this was done in effort to get me to relax. He acknowledged I was nervous trying to communicate with the Italian waiter. The Italian gentlemen did not speak English, but he read my body language.

Fast-forward a week later, and I was taking a walk by myself. The Italian gentlemen, whom read my body language, he drove by in a car and acknowledged me with a friendly “Ciao.”

Connecting through dissonance requires motivation. You never know who is watching and listening, and in some cases, body language can transfer. I acknowledge that communication is an imperfect system that requires negotiation, and when you do make your way through the dissonance and connect, it is exciting!

Anxiety and Cultural “Sins”

by Luke Batty
I read several articles and travel threads on appropriate behavior and mannerisms. This exposure has helped me little. Many behavioral patterns are specific to regions, towns, and even neighborhoods in Italy. This is most visible in slang terms that change from place to place. Nevertheless, after reading these materials, I was paranoid that I would do something wrong and be seen as a rude American. This seems to be a common belief amongst the students travelling. In a foreign environment, our self-monitoring increases. We see ourselves as guests in a stranger’s home. This creates a competition of hospitality. Students want to seem educated and privy to the local ways; locals want to accommodate and share with the students. My pronunciation has been corrected by different bartenders and shop owners but never in a derogatory way.

Tonight, the folk maestro Dario helped me improve my pasta forking technique (for the uninitiated, stick fork in noodles, roll clockwise). He also complimented another student’s use of the “scarpetta,” wiping the bowl with a piece of bread. She was afraid she was being called out for impolite behavior and we reaffirmed that she was actually doing the right thing.

No one is expected to be perfect when they’re in an unfamiliar place. We can learn by watching and being corrected but everyone’s previous experiences will provide different knowledge. For example, I may not be a great pasta forker but I do use my silverware in the European way (fork in left hand, tines down). My grandmother taught me to eat this way because it actually saved a relative’s life. My dad’s Uncle Johnny was a waist-gunner on a B-17. His plane was shot down three times over the course of WWII. In 1944, he was shot down over occupied France and hid with other stranded American GI’s with the French Resistance. Johnny was a Cajun duck hunter. He and others from the bayou were recruited because they knew French and had experience shooting flying targets. While stuck in France, the group of Americans went to the café. The Gestapo came, looked around, picked out every American except Johnny, and arrested them. Johnny hid in plain sight because unlike the other Americans, Cajun Johnny ate with the fork in the left hand, tines down.

I don’t expect to use any travel knowledge in a survival situation. But there is a value in adapting alternate methods to eating, drinking, and socializing from different cultures. We have to accept we’ll make mistakes-like saying “good night” at a prudishly early 9pm- and rely on the hospitality of our international hosts. On the Santiago de Compostela, reliable albuergues and hostels are a modern addition. Up until the late 20th century, pilgrims had to rely on the hospitality of locals to shelter and feed them between Roncesvalles and Santiago. When we travel through someone’s homeland and engage the culture, we must be humble and grateful. We’ll make mistakes but we should never refuse opportunities to apply what we learn. Cagli has been remarkably courteous for me. While the teachers have led fantastic modules, the most memorable lessons on Italian cultures were Cagliesi sharing with me.

Hospital Visit

by LeAna Crowley 
A trip to Urbino was planned for the Gonzaga group. This particular morning was very hard for me to stand up straight. I felt weak, nauseous, and it was hard to breathe. I knew very little about the landscape of Urbino, but I knew I could not climb any hills. Deep inside myself I understood that I could not go on this unique trip with my classmates, but instead would have to go to the hospital for a diagnosis and medicine.

When I entered the hospital I tried to make sense of how to navigate my visit. Like an emergency room or clinic visit back home, there was a room to wait. An emergency worker came over to ask me why I was there. I held my chest and coughed. The man asked for my hand, then placed an oxygen meter on my finger. In Italian, he said I was not in a dire situation. I waited for maybe a half hour.

I was asked to walk past a set of double doors to the actual doctor’s office. Immediately, the doctor introduced herself. She asked me in Italian to explain my symptoms. Even though I don’t speak Italian, I instinctively understood what she was asking me. Again, I put my hand on my chest, breathed in and started to cough. From there the staff of specialists took my blood to be tested, gave me a breathing treatment, and took an x-ray of my chest. In between these tests, I waited either curled up in fetal position or slouched in my chair asleep. Waiting is the same in the United States. After 4 hours of waiting, I was diagnosed with beginning stages of bronchitis. Thank God.

The most surprising part of my hospital visit was payment for my care. As I walked up to the billing office I wondered how to use my health insurance, and asked myself how much credit was on my cards. I was thinking my visit would be in the thousands. To my surprise the billing clerk said my charge was 36 euro. My mind could not accept this price for all the tests that were run. Then I thought maybe 36 euro was my co-payment and I would receive a bigger bill. It was an even bigger surprise when I was told there would be no charge for my antibiotics at the pharmacy or farmacia. Medicine is included in the price! A doctor’s visit has never felt so fortuitous and light. I am thankful for my hospital visit in Italy.

“Wait, what?”

by Mirna Pleines 
During our two-day break, I ventured out on my own. I was excited to spend two days on the beach in Fano, alone, and without deadlines. That morning, I made sure I was up early enough to catch the first bus out. I was told that Fano was just a forty-minute bus ride away.

Excitement quickly turned to panic, when the bus ticket lady explained that there would be a “cambiamento” of buses and I would have to change buses at some point and take bus number 25 to Fano. Wait, what? Change buses? How will I know when to exit? What if I take the wrong bus? What if I get lost? Ahhhh!

It was too late to turn back now now. My hotel room was already booked. The lady standing behind me obviously noticed my distress when I said, “Oh no!” She taps me on the shoulder and in Italian I assume she said she was also going to Fano and she would tell me which bus I would board. Relief!! We boarded the bus and off we go.

We exchange buses without glitch. All was well until half way into the bus trip, my lady exits. I’m on my own now and I have now been traveling over an hour. I thought the bus trip was only forty minutes? Am I lost? When will I know when to exit? My heart starts racing.

I took out my Italian phrase book and began to compose phrases in my notebook so that I can ask the bus driver for direction. What a brilliant idea! But then he responds. Wait, what did he just say? He spoke so fast. I could not understand one word. I return to my seat. This is not working. What do I do now?

I reach out to the lovely lady who had just boarded the bus and sat next to me. As if sent from heaven, she responds in broken English. “I speak five languages well but my English is bad,” she says. Five languages? I was impressed. Her English was good enough for me. Relief! “You are almost there,” she says. She tells me that she will be exiting before I would but she had spoken to the bus driver and she said not to worry, the bus driver would tell me where to get off and how to find my hotel. And just like that, we arrive and the bus driver signals the direction for my hotel, I exit and I am off.

A few blocks away and there it was, Hotel Corallo. I felt accomplished! I walk up to the reception area to check in and she asks me for my passport. Wait, what? I need my passport to check in? Che Disastro! My passport is in my apartment in Cagli. I want to cry now…

Cultural Dissonance

by Patrick Brown
One aspect of my study aboard program is the discussion, observation and experience of “cultural dissonance.” Cultural dissonance is an evolving concept that attempts to understand the disharmony, anxiety and disassociation that individuals may feel when confronted with another culture, ethnic identity, language or even technology.

It is thought that by immersion in another culture an individual can gain greater understanding of differences and that this understanding can lead to a greater empathy and awareness of another culture, language and even thought processes.

For some individuals, immersion in a different culture or environment can be a very threatening experience. This concept goes a long way in explaining the behavior and reactions of various cultures and societies during the expansionist period beginning with the European Renaissance.

Taken a step further, it leads me to think of my own society (America) and it’s history of Manifest Destiny, The Great White Fleet, cultural Imperialism, and, my favorite modern expression, “American Exceptionalism.”

It has occurred to me that modern America is moving farther away from Alexis de Tocqueville’s concept of “enlightened self-interest,” and has embraced the singularly selfish concept of maximum ethnocentrism.

Instead of using our great wealth, power and knowledge to create a greater good for humankind, we seem to be more interested in gaining more material goods for ourselves while ignoring our impact on this planet and it’s inhabitants.

My study abroad experience has shown me that cultural dissonance is a very real thing, and the more we can share, learn and experience other cultures the more realistic and successful our concept of self can become.

Go, go, go

by Allison Armfield 
In America, it is always go, go, go! One thing I have come to appreciate about Italian culture is that people take their time here: From about noon to four, most shops close and people break for pausa. In the late afternoon, you will find many Italians sitting in the piazza enjoying their aperitivo--which consists of a drink and a salty snack--and simply enjoying the daily interaction between neighbors. Dinners can take several hours because people enjoy the food, the drink, and the company; nobody is worrying about where they have to be next.

The caffé is a different experience altogether here. In America we are on the run in the mornings, and we depend on caffeine to get us through our demanding day. I worked for Starbucks for almost eight years and it was not uncommon for many patrons to start their day with a quad shot of espresso in their latte. I have yet to see a drive-thru coffee shop in Italy, and most caffés don’t even carry paper cups. You walk into the caffé, order your beverage, and sip it at the counter for a few minutes before you pay and head out to start your day.

I have been in Italy for over two weeks now, and occasionally I have ordered a doppio (double) espresso to help me get through my studies. It wasn’t until one of my last days in Cagli that Fabrizzio from Caffé del Commercio finally explained, through a fit of laughter, that there is no such thing as a “double shot” in Italy, and that all this time I have been ordering (literally) “two” espressos. My mind was blown! When asked what he, and other baristas, have been giving me all of this time he explained (still laughing) that instead of pulling individual shots of espresso, he measures out a specific weight of ground coffee and pull it for a certain amount of time dependent on the drink. If we would like more coffee, the barista would simply pull the shots longer.

In the short time I have spent in Italy, I have prided myself in the fact that I can at least successfully order my drinks or food in fluent Italian. The lesson in this embarrassing example of cultural dissonance is that despite how much I am trying to immerse, I am still a foreigner and acculturation is a long process. Even things you think you are familiar with, like coffee, are different when you are abroad. Espresso was brought to America from Italy and we still somehow found a way to Americanize it! When I go in to order my coffee on my last few days in Cagli, I ask Fabrizzio for a doppio and we both have a good laugh about it.

Two Dinners

by Stephanie Jentgen 
Early Saturday evening, the Cagli Class ventured to the Bocciodromo to learn bocci ball and to enjoy a delicious meal of pasta and sausages. The president and other patrons of the bocci club welcomed us and proceeded to show us how to play the game.

As in golf, the speed of the rolling ball can be deceiving. Our two-person team’s goal – to roll our balls within inches of the smaller red marker ball – did not materialize on most attempts. That ball just kept going, and going, and going, much like the Energizer bunny.

Patrick and other staff prepared a tasty meal of watercress salad, pasta with spicy pomodoro sauce and the most delicious grilled sausages I have ever tasted. I ate just enough to enjoy the meal, yet not feel full.

Thank God.

Suddenly, I looked up and saw Simone. We had met the handsome Simone on Thursday evening, when Leona, Sophie, Autumn, Kate and I joined him and his parents, Patricia and Luciano, for a fantastic vegetarian meal at a popular restaurant on the edge of town. Simone and Vinizio had somehow found us at the bocciodromo

Simone quickly motioned to me, so I joined him and he walked me outside the bocciodromo. There stood Vinizio, another of our Thursday dinner guests. Both men were speaking to me in Italian, motioning with their hands, and looking exasperated. I understood just enough to realize that on Thursday, we apparently had made dinner plans for this night with Patricia and Luciano’s, Simone and Vinizio. Patricia had prepared a home-cooked Italian meal and they wondered why we were at the bocciodromo and not their house.

I asked Simone and Vinizio to wait a moment, quickly found Leona, Sophie and Autumn, and explained what was going on. What a major meal malfunction on our part! Obviously, we had to go to Patricia’s for our second dinner. I explained to Dr. Caputo that we had dinner dates of which we were unaware. Six of us piled into a car meant for four and off we went back to Old Cagli.

Simone and Vinizio shook their heads and gently chided us the entire way. All Leona, Sophie, Autumn and I could do was laugh at our stupidity as Sophie literally sprawled across us in the back seat of the compact car. We arrived at Patricia’s a few minutes later.

We quickly explained that we did not realize that we had made dinner plans, and begged forgiveness. Both she and Luciano laughed loudly, and finally Simone and Vinizio relaxed.

Our second dinner – organic and vegetarian – was served lovingly in courses. Patricia had prepared a feast for our eyes, nose and tastebuds. First she served crackers, water and wine. Then, a light pasta with tomato sauce, clams and what looked like little langostino lobster tails. Being allergic to clams, I simply ate more crackers. Then Patricia presented tomatoes, onions and zucchini cut in halves, topped with bread crumbs and seasoning and baked until just tender. Magnifico! She also served bread and homemade hummus with lemon. The final course was a type of cake that ended the meal perfectly.

Throughout the meal, we discussed politics, food, school, music and cities in Italy and the United States. Though their English and our Italian was limited, translation programs, sign language and lots of patience made for a delightful second dinner.

The Home Stretch

by Angie Sillonis
The Cagli program is in the home stretch – only two full days remain, and I’m torn between the deep desire to nap, and the desire to get out and see everything I’ve missed thus far. The bulk of my school work is complete, and I sit at the apartment table, working on loading photos to Facebook for my friends and family to see, plus uploading some to a thumb drive for our class slide show. Everyone deserves to see photos of themselves playing bocce projected onto a wall! I learned a few things about my classmates from playing bocce with them. The ones you knew were athletic were quite good at the game, but a couple others were equally good, and very competitive! Kate appears to be such a kind and timid soul, but don’t threaten her supremacy at bocce, or you may get injured! It was so much fun, and we all appreciated the chefs, particularly Patrick, who spent much of the evening outside barbecuing sausages for the group. The people here are so nice, and we don’t even have to open our mouths for them to know we’re the Americanos. I went to the bar at the bocce facility to get a beer for a classmate, and the bartender handed me two bottles of wine which were intended for our group. I nearly couldn’t convince him that I also wanted a beer! We followed up the barbecue and bocce with a very short bar crawl to celebrate Corey and LeAna’s birthday. Short, because there are exactly two bars in the piazza. We had so much fun singing and dancing to the music at Café d’Italia, the bartender started letting us chose the songs. Dr. C likes to say, “we work hard, and we play hard.” We’ll long be proud of the work we’ve done here, but the memories we’re making will last a lifetime.

Experiencing the universal nature of the Church

by Autumn Reagor 
While this is my first international travel experience, I am no stranger to stateside trips. I love going to new parts of the country and exploring the local cuisine, customs and Catholic churches. Yes, I just admitted to being a Church fan girl.

A beautiful element of being Catholic is the universal nature of the mass; no matter where I go there will be the same readings and the familiar structure honed during the past 2,000 years. I love the tradition, whether it’s a grandiose church nestled between skyscrapers in Chicago, a cathedral overlooking Puget Sound in Seattle, or my own special parish back home.

My Cagli apartment is a stone’s throw from the duomo. I can see it from my bedroom window each night before bed, and I walk past it at least three times a day. Stepping inside for the first time is breathtaking. Even in a small town, the Italians have created a building meant to showcase the wonder of our Creator.

Because my Italian is rough (and I’m being generous in that description), I knew I wouldn’t understand many of the words at my first Cagli mass. From the beginning bars of the first hymn to the closing prayer, I likely picked up 1% of what was said. But my heart and spirit understood 100% the message.

I celebrated my second Cagli mass this morning. Aided by a helpful bulletin with the readings and responses spelled out, I understood even more of the words. The first mass was incredible, but the second was even more moving as I could more fully participate in it. And that’s the underlying theme for my Cagli time so far – it’s an amazing experience that gets sweeter with each meaningful interaction.

Cagli, Italy - June 20, 2015

by Patrick Brown 
Caught in time, like a Nautilus trapped in limestone, the ancient stone building speaks voices long past. Standing proud, aside the hand-carved cobblestones laid by Roman slaves, the old building echoes of the faithful hands still keeping the stone alive.

The building’s bones, rough hand-hewn beams, irregular in shape, hang suspended against the white plaster ceiling. They are blackened and charred, from years of use and uncounted fires, and the nicks and clefts carved by the craftsman's adze create shadows of centuries long past.

Salvaged perhaps from an earlier place, the beams intermingle among modern 4 X 4’s whose faux stain fails to match the patina of time. They meet in the middle of the room, supported by a giant backbone of timber. The giant beam, the size of man’s waist has been carved in places, left round in others. It speaks of ancient forests and of mighty men.

The old stone softly reflects the harsh glow of florescent light, while plastic conduit runs exposed along the ancient beams. A closer look reveals the chisel marks, where iron met stone, and a building was born.

Missing the Bus in Italy

by Stephanie Jentgen
One of my fears while traveling has been missing the train or bus. I speak little Italian, and the thought of being stranded and unable to find my way to my next destination worries me.

On Thursday, my friend, Shelly, and I set out to visit Gubbio. We were taking the bus, and knew we’d have to make one transfer from the Roma bus to the Gubbio bus. According to the driver, we needed to walk to our left, wait a few minutes, and our connection would arrive.

So we walked about 100 feet or so. There were no bus stop signs, so we asked a local man if we were in the right spot to catch the bus to Gubbio. He nodded and said, “Si.” Happy and feeling confident, we waited and watched the traffic in the roundabout about 200 yards from us. A few minutes later, we saw the bus approach the circled road, enter the roundabout, and drive the opposite direction.
We missed the bus.

And we thought the next bus wouldn’t arrive until 5:30pm.

Shelly and I walked a few blocks into the town (which we later discovered was “new” Gubbio) hoping the bus had stopped. No such luck was to be found. We walked back to a café near the roundabout, ordered coffee and brioche, and pondered our next steps.

Were there other busses? Could we hire someone in the café to drive us to Gubbio? Did anyone speak enough English to mesh with our limited Italian? I sipped my coffee and munched my oh-so-delicious pastry. It occurred to me that I was not freaking out. In fact, I was almost calm. Experiencing this misstep with Shelly made this an adventure rather than a nightmare.

Shelly had pulled out her Italian-English book and was trying to put together a few sentences to ask the café’s patrons. I saw the translation for Do You Speak English and went to work. I walked over to a group of folks and loudly said, Parle Inglese? They all said No. I then explained through grand hand and facial gestures and stilted Italian that we had missed the bus to Gubbio. They understood and collectively said, Aww. Then they set about to help. I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and one of them noted that a bus to Gubbio arrived every hour at mid-hour. In 40 minutes another bus would be showing up.

WooHoo! Shelly and I felt so competent. We walked to the side of the roundabout, where we thought the next bus would pick us up and waited. People sped past us, giving us strange looks, and an occasional not-so-nice hand gesture. It became quickly apparent we were, once again, in the wrong spot. However, we knew the bus would have to pass us, so we waited. Soon, we saw the Gubbio bus headed our way. We frantically began waving our arms to stop it. The driver stopped, gave us both funny looks, opened the door and let us board the bus. We were on our way. Then about 100 feet later, he stopped at the actual bus stop. Ah well. Now we knew where we should have been waiting. We would keep that information in mind.

About 20 minutes later we arrived outside the walled, medieval city of Gubbio. Plastered onto the side of a steep hillside, the town beckoned visitors from around the world. Shelly and I visited museums, cathedrals, lovely shops, and fantastic restaurants. It was a day to remember.

Cali in Cagli- Due (#2)

by Sophie Imbuelten 
I awake to the sound of a vacuum cleaner, for a moment, I forget where I am- If I was back home in California, the sound of a vacuum cleaner at 5 am would mean an intruder had broken into my home and vacuumed…(an intruder, that I would most likely invite to return, if not move in.)

The vacuum I hear at 5 am everyday here in Cagli is a street sweeper. Although a bit of a nuisance to wake up to, if it keeps this town as beautiful as it is- I will do my part and forego the additional beauty sleep I require….I’ll take one for the team and just be ugly.

It is Saturday, June 20th, and I have been here in this quaint medieval town for 10 days . I have gleefully adjusted to the following:

Walking to school- Every morning I walk down a cobblestone street with a piece of fruit in my hand and a smile on my face- who does this back home? Even 15 year olds are driven to and from school regardless of distance. Here in Cagli, I have a five-minute “foot commute!” Belissimo!!!

Espresso Break with porcelain cups- I enjoy my morning espresso break straight from a porcelain cup, at an espresso bar, with real people and conversation! (not to mention a fresh croissant with some delicious cream filling yet to be identified) - No barking out “Grande ½ decaf, soy extra foam” to the barista in a box!

Pausa- What?!!!!! Pausa?!!!!! A….pause? During the day? …Really?....REALLY

I cannot possibly express the joy that this brings to me. I can’t help but feel like I am cheating the system by taking this delectable break, but I’ll do my best to get over it. Just thinking of a way I can turn this whole pausa thing into my thesis and apply it to my workplace excites me beyond measure (my boss?....not so much.)

Things that I have not gleefully adjusted to:

Time- How does one assimilate “Italian time” into an American life? I am struggling to balance the need to be like an Italian (Walk to work, drink espresso from a porcelain cup, pausa for 3 hours in the middle of the day) while meeting the deadlines (including this journal entry) of what is required to pass this class! Not sure if I will be able to fully immerse but as they say….I will die trying.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

International Business

by LeAna Crowley
Days before my departure from the US, I viewed my trip as a business trip. This perspective helped me to overcome the stress and anxiety I was facing. Having a specific job keeps me focused; relationships are a bonus on the job.

Today, I had my first interview with a Cagli elementary teacher. The whole appointment was on the fly. My experience in the states with teachers is that they are always ready to share their teaching story of the day or to summarize their year.My expectations for the interview with a local Italian teacher were the same despite the language barrier.This teacher’s passion for educating children is similar to what I have seen, but the interaction of an interview has definite cultural differences.

The interview for the profile on her career started at her dinner table. The interviewee controlled the interview with the interpreter and me. She simply dismissed questions posed to her in her own native tongue, and told the story she wanted to talk about. Even with the dyadic noise of a language barrier, attitude, and the intercultural dissonance, her love for teaching comes through in her energy, and smile.

GU classes consist of Conversational Italian, Photography, Writing, and Intercultural Communication. All classes here in GU, Cagli are relevant to our final project. In my undergraduate communication program, I learned communication is never 100% successful even with best intentions. From the interview, I learned love and passion can be communicated even with a language barrier.


by Melinda Smith
On Friday, a fellow student and I decided to go to Gubbio, a medieval Italian city. We said we would meet up at 6:40am so we could walk to catch the 7am bus. For some reason my brain registered 6:40am as being 6:50am, and when the clock struck 6:50am, I realized I was running 10minutes behind. I popped my head out the window and yelled down to my friend that I was coming. I must be on Italian time! In a dead sprint, we ran down to the bus station because the next bus to Gubbio was at 2pm. Luckily our bus had not arrived yet, and luckily I had not tripped over my shoelaces because I slipped on my shoes and ran out the door. We managed to communicate with the attendant to get the appropriate bus tickets, and then we decided to try to communicate with him that on Monday I had left my sunglasses on a bus trip from Urbino to Cagli. On my behalf, he made an inquiring phone call and then he also talked to a fellow bus driver who pulled up. In his interactions, the attendant was not able to locate the sunglasses, but he told us that we should check back with him when we return from our day trip to Gubbio. We hopped our bus to Gubbio, and less than 45minutes later, we were dropped off roadside.

We found a café and had a cappuccino and a pastry. My friend and I discussed the fact that we were not entirely sure where the medieval part of Gubbio was located, and we also discussed the fact that we were dropped off on the side of a road, and we were not exactly sure where we the catch the bus to get back to Cagli. Post cappuccino and pastry, we catch the courage to ask the server where the bus stop was located. The serverwe asked was not entirely sure. She asked her co-worker, and her co-worker was not entirely sure, and then she went into the back of the café to ask more co-workers. Four Italians later, consensus pointed us back to where we were dropped off.

There was a bar near the side of the road where we were dropped off. We decided to go in and we asked the male attendant where the bus stop was located,and we also asked what time the bus would be back. He confirmed the bus stop was out front but he was not entirely sure what time the bus would be back by to pick us up. He tried calling the number on the back of our bus tickets, but he was placed on hold for atleast 10minutes, and he made a joke that the Italians must be having a cappuccino break! We looked up on the internet the bus station for Cagli, and the gentlemen called the station on our behalf. He confirmed that the bus would be back by at 5:30pm to pick us up, and he also pointed us in the direction of medieval Gubbio!

These interactions were impactful for me because I feel it says a lot about the collectivism in the Italian culture. The people we interacted with did not speak any English and yet they went out of their way to confirm the information we were in search of. In comparison, if I had these questions in the states, people would say they did not know and they would leave it up to you to figure it out, because isn’t that what the internet is for…


by Kristi Machado 
We were hungry. Still not used to the later hours preferred for mealtimes, our stomachs announced the hour almost as loudly as the chimes at city hall.

Typically, for lunch, we would stop at the local bar for a panini, but on this day we decided to try something a little more formal. The restaurant opened out onto the street, and the tables were empty. With such a small menu, we thought we could surely make it in the hour and a half provided for pausa. It was 1:10 p.m.
Unsure of where to place our order, Mindy inquired while I held a table out front. A few more classmates joined us, and we quickly filled the space. With our orders placed, we enjoyed the sun and talked about the day.

About ten minutes later, our waiter return to confirm our order. Having no English, himself, and our very limited grasp of Italian, we took the next five minutes confirming our order. It was 1:25 p.m.

Having an hour remaining, we continued to enjoy ourselves. A little more aware of the remaining time, we discussed the differences between Italians and Americans, and the pressure we, as Americans, feel to stay on schedule. Pausa is a time of rest and relaxation in the middle of the busy work day.

Another 20 minutes passed, and still no food. Even by local standards, it was taking a bit long and our hunger was getting a bit impatient. Again, our waiter came out of the restaurant, and again he asked for our order. It was 1:55 p.m. We were needed back at the classroom at 2:30 p.m.

While we were very happy with the slower pace of life in Cagli, we were also keenly aware of our obligations to our faculty and classmates. We were at an impasse: ask for a to-go box (something not typically done in Italy), or cancel the order all together. Since we were very limited on our available vocabulary, we made use of a new phrase learned in class that day, and tried for a lunch "to-go." Only one of us was successful. It was 2:30 p.m.

We had gotten to a point in the day where time won out. I admire the Italians ability to make every second count, and to live la dolce vita. I also know that I have to be true to who I am, and the way in which I was raised - if you are on time, your late.

The clock struck 2:32p, and this time, the clock won. And of course, lunch was delicious!


by Corey Tanaka
Being here in Cagli, Italy, I am reminded of the saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Throughout my short time in Italy I could not help but find some similarities between this beautiful, historic town and quaint Spokane.

Cagli is a small-ish mountain town in the Provinicia de Pesaro e Urbino, a Northern Province of Italy. To me, this town is the quintessential traditional Italian town. Buildings older than America still stand and give comfort to Italian families that have had their family names written in the pillars of time. Cobblestone streets feel the rumble of Fiat cars and mopeds zipping over them through the piazza, and the aroma of coffee beans is palpable in the morning time. In this sense, Spokane is nothing like Cagli, but there are some similarities.
The Spokane I have come to know has a predominantly white, American population. Likewise, the Cagli I have come to know has a predominantly Italian population of people that are born and raised Cagliese. In both areas of the world, I am a foreigner. Being of Japanese, Korean, and Native Hawaiian heritage, I stick out like lone sock among a drawer full of pairs in Spokane and Cagli.

Throughout my three years of university at Gonzaga, I have grown accustom to this feeling of being the “other,” but I forgot that I would also feel this in Cagli, Italy—however, I was not the only one feeling this. After talking with a few of my peers who are older than me and also white Americans, they told me that this was the first time that they had bene the minority. I experienced this same shock when I first came to Gonzaga University.

Being born and raised in Hawaii, I was surrounded by diversity. Hawaii is known as the melting pot of the Pacific; more colloquially known as the “mixed plate.” I was raised around Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian, and other ethnicities from around the world, but never was I the minority. Now in Cagli, some of my peers were experiencing this for the first time, and it was eye opening for me to witness this. Over the years, I had gotten used to be “that Asian guy” and “that Asian guy with the hair,” but it was interesting to see this perspective. In Cagli, I have been given the nickname “samurai” by the locals, and frankly, I think it is pretty great. Although some may perceive this as a micro-aggression, I always take it with a grain of salt and never let it get me down.

The peers that came to me about this new feeling also asked for advice on dealing with this. The only bit of advice I could give them was to truly know themselves, acknowledge their difference, and be proud of who they are regardless of age, ethnicity, or background. With that little bit of knowledge or wisdom or whatever term you want to give it, I always feel like I can go into any environment and make the best of it. I hope you can too.

Surrender to amicable ambiguity and hazy happiness

by Sally Hess 
Italy has challenged me to leave my habits at home, question my assumptions, and embrace the hazy uncertainty of my plans. It is startling and marvelous to open to the spontaneity of travel and the unknown. Italy has felt comfortable, safe, and inviting. I have wandered alone through the streets of Rome, Florence, and many small towns like Cagli, breathing in an Italian way of being. I am encouraging it to permeate my bones and settle into the foundation of my being and my behavior. Letting go of my modus operandi of total control has been delightful and freeing.

I head home in a few days and I am thinking about the things I have learned in Italy. One obvious yet easily ignored idea is that the attitude of going with the flow often allows for things to turn out just fine. Perhaps the bus won’t come on time, perhaps the store will have closed when we get there, perhaps challenges and obstacles will surface – it will all still turn out just fine. Contemplating the tension between chaos and order, I can feel the pendulum swinging more toward the middle. As it settles into a still-swinging middle ground, I can sense the creativity that will flourish in this space. The polarity of chaos and order created stress and lacked the both/and qualities that this middle ground holds. As I plan for life at home, I know that I can have both rhythm and spontaneity; we will have regular bed-time stories but we can also have dessert before dinner.

Settling In

by Lisa Becker
Day by day, my Italian improves. Just like riding a bike, I slowly remember words, conjugations, and phrases I haven't uttered in almost a decade. I can pick out many words as they are spoken, but I am initially shy to test my own skills. I often converse with myself in my head or even speak softly under my breath in an attempt to regain my confidence and awaken a sleeping part of my brain. Despite my desire to engage the Cagliesi, my lack of confidence creates barriers to intercultural communication in my activities. With only 4 days left in the class, I finally feel my intercultural competence kicking in. My motivation grows each day as my language skills improve. Now I see that most Italians appreciate my efforts to communicate, regardless of my poor grammar or mispronunciation.

Cultural immersion can be an emotional rollercoaster. The highs and lows come at me from every side and can happen at any moment. The frustration from forgetting a specific word or conjugation can quickly turn to elation when a shopkeeper or waiter finally understands the question I am trying to ask. The next day, a moment of mental paralysis releases a deep fear inside which tries to convince me that I will NEVER find my way back to Cagli from the nearby town of Gubbio because I don’t know what time the bus leaves. What would be a simple question back home feels like a complex problem to solve when traveling abroad. The nearby bar owner, a stranger by all definitions of the word, offers to call first the bus company and then the Cagli bus station to find out the schedule. A stranger becomes a friend, a jumble of words and gestures turns into an Italian-English conversation, and my catastrophic failure transforms into an inspiring success in intercultural communication.

Riding in Cars with Strangers

by Kate Bresnahan
I learned never to get into a car with a stranger at a very young age. However, in Cagli many students, myself included, have hopped into cars with Cagliese who we barely know. The other night, Patrizia, Cagli’s herbalist, invited several of us to attend a vegetarian dinner with her family and friends at a restaurant in New Cagli. Five of us accepted the invitation. We willingly jumped into cars with people we had just met; and we were glad we did it.

We arrived at the restaurant after a short drive. We sat at a table with Patrizia’sson, Simone, and a man who works for the tourism shop in Cagli. This was the first time we had shared a meal with Cagliese people, and it was an interesting and fun experience. We had an excellent meal andinteracted with Italians, some of whom we had already met and some of whom were new to us. While we could not understand everything they said and they could not understand everything we said, we still were able to communicate. It was clear that everyone thought the dinner was delicious and that everyone, with the exception of Simone(he would rather have been out with his friends), had a great time.

Because the United States and Cagli are so different, it was okay for us to rely on the kindness of strangers. If we had not gotten into those cars with Patrizia and her friends and family, we would not have had such a great experience.

Pasta, Pizza and Pausa

by Mirna Pleines
Five days into the program, I had a moment. Actually, I had two moments. The first moment came when, after being let out of class 10 minutes early, I was elated to think that I would be able to make it to the Kebob restaurant and eat something besides pizza or pasta before they closed for pausa. Disastro!!!!

Pausa had swept Kebob land early. I had a moment of delirium. I wanted to cry but I composed myself enough so that my roommate wouldn’t think I was losing it. Although, I think I did momentarily lose it at flashing thought that I would have to ingest another piece of pizza or pasta noodle today. Disappointed, sad, frustrated and desperate, we walked away.

Pausa has been culturally inconvenient for me. While I understand the concept of pausa and if a time schedule wasn’t ingrained in every fiber of my being, I would probably embrace it. We, as American students, are working on Italian time with an American schedule and it is clashing.

When we break for lunch, which is during pausa, we have options, a communal pasta lunch at someone’s apartment, a dry sandwich at Jakes or a dry sandwich at Mimi’s. I just can’t anymore. The stale tasting bread at both cafés makes it difficult to swallow. It is necessary to take swig of water to soften the bite of sandwich in your mouth before forcing it down your throat.

After the disappointment and moment of delirium at the Kebob restaurant door, we proceeded to head to the piazza to consider our lunch options – of course, we already knew what those were. On our way to the piazza, we walked by Angelo’s, the only restaurant that serves steak that is not horse meat. It’s pausa and so naturally I assumed it was closed. It was then that we see our classmate heading to Angelo’s. “It’s closed for pausa, right?” I said. “We shall see,” he responds, as he tried the door. The door opened!

I think I momentarily heard the sound of angelic music coming from within. Well, actually it was more like the smell of something that was not pasta or pizza. Angelic music and non-carb food is practically the same thing to me at this point. My reaction? I was sort of laughing and sort of crying and sort of feeling like I wanted to run into the kitchen and hug the cook. I was a ball of emotions… and that was my second moment.

Pasta, Pizza and Pausa are not my friends!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Many Faces of Italy

by Kevin Sexton
Visiting different towns in Italy, has shown me that just like the United States, there are many different ways to live in these centuries old communities. The city of Florence, while steeped in history, has become a modern city with very old landmarks. It is a bustling area with tourists from around the world making their way to see the architecture and artwork created long ago.

The scene in Cagli is the opposite of Florence. In this town, tradition is still prevalent, it is not a tourist city, this is a small community that still takes advantage of Pausa and closes the majority of shops so that people can rest and spend time with family/friends. There is a sense of pride in this town, a tight knit community.

After seeing the differences between Florence and Cagli, it was on to Urbino for a day. This, to me, seemed comparable to a college town in the United States, with the added Italian touches. The town still recognizes pausa, with most shops closing in the early afternoon. There is more activity on the streets and more variety in peoples appearances. It seems as though the town has a higher number of people in their twenties, this is most likely due to the University in town.

The differences in the communities in Italy is much like the differences you see across America. Every town/city has its own identity, we have our similarities and our differences. The differences between the Italy and the United States can be seen in different ways from town to town in Italy and even in the bus system.
Taking the bus in Italy is an adventure that you never know how it will exactly play out. Starting out in Cagli usually results in riding the bus out for a short ride, where you will on occasion pick up passengers that appear to just be standing beside the road, not at a bus stop. Eventually, the bus will stop at what appears to be a random area beside the road, where you will be instructed to exit the bus and you will either move to a waiting bus or wait for your next bust to arrive. This is unlike anything I have ever experienced the few times I have travelled by bus in the States. Sometimes you may only do this exchange once each way on your trip or you may have a real adventure and change once on the way to your destination and three times on the way home, always and adventure.

The cultural differences are both small and large when comparing Italian life to American life but we all want to live the best life we can. This trip has allowed me to step back and realize everyday is an adventure and I just need to step back and enjoy the moments.

Familiar Streets

by Jennifer Colton-Jones
Venezia, Verona, Firenze…Fano, Urbino, Assisi, Cagli. After a week in Italy, the cities start to blur together in a twisting kaleidoscope of winding streets, beautiful building buildings, and breathtaking views.

I won’t say it gets old (I’m still pulling my camera out multiple times a day), but it becomes familiar background noise. A friend had to miss the trip to Urbino, and when she asked what the city was like, the first thing I thought of was, “It’s a small Florence laid out on the hills of Assisi.”

After a while, it’s easy to see how the Italians seem to become desensitized to the history around them. My apartment is in a building hundreds of years old, but within a few days, I stopped marveling at the tile work or the imposing doorways and just thought of it as the apartment.

In Rome, I walked past an 18th century church because it “wasn’t as old” as things around it.

When in these historic cities, I would stare in horror at graffiti on historic buildings or interpretive signs. The vandals made no distinction between churches or homes, focused on delivering their messages to the people around them.

I still stare in horror when I see graffiti, but no longer with the “how could they” mindset. To them, it’s a building the tourists will notice. If only I could make them understand it devalues their message when we recoil in horror at its location.

People walk the streets of Cagli or Florence or Urbino like it’s just another day to go to work or to school because, for them, it is.

Maybe to the people of Tuscany and Le Marche, it’s just another statue of Dante or another church or another Roman ruin. To us, it's something new and beautiful.

If only we could always look at things with the eyes of a visitor, remembering just because something is familiar doesn’t mean it is not beautiful and important.

Music: A Universal Language

by Allison Armfield
Last night the class went to the teatro to watch a ballet version of “Romeo e Guilietta.” I have never been to a ballet before, but as an English major I am an advocate for Shakespeare; I have read and seen many renditions of this timeless piece and was interested to see a ballet interpretation. I remember reading Romeo and Juliet for the first time in high school, and again in college. I read the original early English with some difficulty, even though it is still written in my native language. I wondered how this dialect, preserved in time, could be translated into other languages such as Italian, and most likely in a modern context (is there such a thing as old Italian?) There is no way to convey colloquialisms because literal translations of many phrases wouldn’t make much sense. How much of the meaning is lost? This is metaphorical for the struggles I face abroad, trying to learn a new language and convey meaning to a different culture: many elements and nuances of communication are lost in translation.

While I was watching the ballerinas and listening to the music, I admit at first I was a bit lost: I was not tracking where in the plot line the ballerinas were, or what message they were trying to convey. Eventually I listened to the tone of the music and watched the mannerisms of the ballerinas. I realized that it didn’t matter; I was watching an interpretation of a timeless story and it was irrelevant that the actors and I spoke a different language. Music has a way of uniting people because the rhythms and emotions expressed are universal and have no language barrier. I looked around me and saw the theater packed with Cagliese of all ages. It was 11 o’clock in the evening and children were out watching this production. This is a community and culture that values arts, and I found the community support (including us American students) to be an incredible bonding experience. Momentarily, the language and cultural barriers we have been facing, were eliminated.

Move with a Purpose

by Carl Hudson
Recently, I began to notice how I’ve begun a routine for my mornings in Cagli, Italy. The morning habits have consisted of buying a newspaper from a local shop, sitting in the city square, and ordering a cup of cappuccino from a homegrown café to start the day. Each time, I would practice my extremely limited Italian with the shop owners who would help me with pronunciations and maybe a few words that I may or may not completely recall later.

One morning, I somewhat deviated from the routine and noticed that the shop owners paid less attention to me and gave a very curt greeting. When I walked behind someone, they continually looked over their shoulder with somewhat of a concerned expression. I began to wonder if I had done anything to offend or cause some form of apprehension among some of the people who were part of my morning routine.

I was self-conscious. I had a lot of questions about my interactions with the townspeople, but felt uncomfortable asking anyone around me. While walking around the town, I noticed how fast I passed people around me. It dawned on me that every movement I made was done with a sense of urgency.
At home, every task was done quickly in order to move on to the next task. Even vacations can be done this way especially when people cram as many events as possible in their schedule. But the Italians in Cagli took their time at their errands.

The next morning, I took my time speaking Italian with the shop owners and broadening my vocabulary with them. I started strolling from here to there with the flow of traffic as opposed to moving speedily. Some locals surprised me when they spoke a little bit of English. That’s when I knew that the people I was learning about were just as interested in understanding where I came from, as I was interested in understanding their culture.

Urbino (and more)

by Joseph Shepard
(This is an excerpt from Joe's complete blog entry-- to read the whole thing, click 'read more' at the end of the post.)

So, where were we?

Oh, yeah. Urbino, Italy.

Urbino is very westernized, and if you change the language from Italian to English, it could easily pass as just another nice college town in the United States. Young college students were everywhere you turned, and for good reason. Urbino has a small handful of universities within its city limits: Accademia Di Belle Arti and Universita Collegio Raffaello are just two that come to mind. Even though we were Americans studying abroad, it didn’t really seem like we stood out in Urbino the same way we stand out in Cagli. We blended right in. Well, at least until people realized our grip on the Italian language needed work. At one point, a group of us walked by (well, they walked, I was still hobbling with an umbrella as a cane) a small store, and in the window was a statue of David with a Barbie doll sitting on top of his shoulders. It was an interesting way for two cultures to intersect, and I didn’t ever consider those two iconic symbols together in that way. I just didn’t see it coming. A few minutes later, the group walked into a small café for a drink and a snack, and the radio was playing “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. Rather than playing a hot local Italian musician, they chose the most iconic pop artist in modern history to put over the airwaves. The students in the city were decked out in shirts with many American symbols and companies on them, from Monster to Metallica (man, they must really love that band here).

I might have been more observant today if my immune system wasn’t fighting an all-out war against an invading coalition of bacteria, viruses, and other microscopic demon-spawn hell bent on turning my vital organs into goo. Walking up all the long, steep hills wasn’t helping my cause either.

No wonder Garfield the cat hates Mondays.

A Much Slower Pace

by Angela Sillonis
We read reports of wildfires and floods back home. We check, not really interested, what sort of weather our families and friends are living with. When we wake up in the morning, our loved ones are just going to bed. They are dealing with day-to-day life struggles, like jobs and kids, while the biggest decisions we make every day is whether to have our coffee served cappuccino, macchiato or Americano, and which of the many flavors of gelato sounds best at this moment.

Despite our slower pace of life, we are doing work, hopefully learning a new language, and if all goes as planned, producing work we can all be proud of. In this short time, we have become friends. We’ve supported each other through frightening incidents, illness, and non-working bank cards, (thanks, Leona!). We are each other’s surrogate families, and we are building relationships that will last a lifetime. In this way, we are assimilating into the culture in which we find ourselves.

Tuesday evening was the first time I saw groups of young people on the piazzaCagli. At the pizza place where I had dinner, it appeared to be ladies’ night. There were two groups of women (aged approximately late 20s, early 30s) who came for drinks and dinner. One group of three (the slightly older group) ate, talked, and enjoyed each others’ company. The group of four (younger) women did not seem to be having fun at all. They each ordered one drink, and when two of them left the room to smoke, the two remaining didn’t speak to each other - one of them made a phone call – and appeared to be pretty grumpy. When the smokers returned, it didn’t take long before they paid their bills and left, but it was still nice to see young people out and about, since the typical crowd we see is much older.

The culture in which we find ourselves is one that values family, friendships and history. They live life at a much slower pace than we’re used to, but we have found that pace to be very appealing. When I return to my Boston suburb, the first change I plan to lobby for is that the whole of New England implement pausa (the food trucks can stay open in the afternoons under my rule, however). Afternoon naps are good for productivity, and they certainly improve my mood.

The Value of Immersion

by Luke Batty 
During my junior year at Gonzaga, I had a teacher freak out mid-class about how one of their interviewees had decided to not be a part of the research project. I was able to empathize this week when two men who had previously agreed for an interview declined the next day. My teacher said that in her research of interviewing veterans, it was not hard to believe that someone would choose to maintain their privacy. While I feel my two interviewees had a different motivation, I can understand and respect their choice.

I experienced a similar rejection in Spain a few weeks ago. Before coming to Italy, I hiked the Camino de Santiago with my family. I knew I would need a different set of clothes as well as my laptop for the latter half of the trip and it would only amount to extra weight on the way to Santiago. I packed a small suitcase- full of manpris- and left it with my sister’s friend in Madrid. That friend left for Sevilla before our return to Madrid so he gave it to one of his friends, who passed it off on another friend, who then gave it to another friend because she would be out of town to complete the deal. My sister, who had been in contact with all of the aforementioned parties, decided that telling me my bag with laptop and clothes was being passed around like a holiday fruitcake would only stress me out so I never knew until we picked up the bag that had changed hands four times in Madrid.

I think the hesitance towards the interview and the bag is related and indicative of the differences between American and European cultures. In the US, a casual connection and $100 dollars would typically be persuasive enough to motivate someone to hold on to a suitcase (such an offer towards the interview might be considered unethical). An American, capitalist and individualist, might value the minimal effort that makes money. After all, leaving a suitcase in a closet is not a difficult job. In Europe, one might expect the more collectivist attitude to motivate the person to take the interview or task for the good of the community or acquaintance.

The fact that in both Spain and Italy this was not the case means the position on the individualist/collectivist spectrum requires review. Either the cultures are more individualist than I previously thought or the nature of collectivism requires a stronger relationship and trust. In Spain, I witnessed certain behavior that I think displays the latter and would likely be parallel in Italy. Whether or not the request is met depends on the relationship between the two parties.

My sister, who lived in Sevilla, told me to never ask the Spanish how they feel about politics or their political history. Those who were under Franco’s rule are still alive. After dictatorial rule, they trust sparingly and teach the future generations the same. Italians survived a similar ordeal under Mussolini and Nazi occupation. So making the request as a friend twice-removed, it’s not surprising they would choose to not build a favor based relationship. The Spanish and Italians don’t want to take responsibility for a person or their possessions when they no next to nothing about them.

The value of cultural immersion is to build those relationships. The goal should not be to manipulate or to use each other for favors. Building trust between groups is the most crucial part of fostering communication and dialogue between them. Trust that they won’t be used, misrepresented, or manipulated requires time and effort for those of us studying abroad. But the work we do reflects our country of origin and our organization. We must be collective representatives of our homes and values with a desire to listen and engage our international hosts.

Buona notte, Signora

by Mirna Pleines
I have never wanted to understand the Italian language so much as when I met Signora Karla. While venturing out alone on the cobblestone streets of Cagli, I stumbled upon a small church at the end of town. The door was open, I walked in and there I met her. I introduced myself, “Il mio nome è Mirna. Come ti chiami?”

Signora Karla was in the process of locking up the old church. When she saw me, she smiled and gestured me to come in. After my introduction, she began speaking to me in her beautiful language and all I could say, “Non capisco Italiano, scuse.” Of course she knew I did not speak the language but she did not seem to care, she wanted to so much to share her church. She talked and pointed at the old church artifacts. Because I speak Spanish, I was able to understand a word here and there but nothing that I could put together that would make sense to me.

Very quickly, I became frustrated with my inability to understand what she was saying. Signora Karla was sharing with me the history of this beautiful church and I was missing it all. I felt heartbroken. I wanted to understand every detail. At one point, she grabs my hand and takes me to the front of the church. She wanted to show me something. She opens a hidden compartment in the alter table. It was an old statute of Jesus. It was beautiful. I took pictures as she kept talking and pointing. I thanked her a million times, “Grazie mille!” Still frustrated that I did not have more words to express my sincere gratitude.

We walked out together and she locks up the church behind us and invites me to her casa. A short narrow walk up a cobblestone street from the church, Signora Karla spoke to me as if I could understand every word she was saying. All I could do was nod and smile. What I was able to understand is that we were walking on a street that was built in 1265. Numbers are easy to decipher for me. At the end of the street, she stops and points up at an old and weathered painting of the blessed Mary and baby Jesus. It was beautiful.Signora Karla looked so prideful as she pointed. I could not help but smile.

Soon we arrived to her home where I met her husband. After the brief introduction, she led me to her fruit stand, which was situated next to her home. Holding my hand, she takes me in, she introduces me to her son, gives me a hug, a kiss and a banana.

“Buona notte Signora Karla! And Grazie Mille"