I suppose you know it’s been a successful vacation when your blog mistress hasn’t written since the first week of her adventure.
Allow me to rejoin your world.
I’m coming at you from the Bologna airport, where I am waiting for my flight to London. Another quiet, industrial building with large aisles.
My time in the airport was spent with an Italian man named Lucca, a quiet, well-dressed man in his thirties who, at first glance, looks like Charlotte’s second husband Harry on Sex and the City.
Upon hearing me speak English, he asked if I was from the United States. He seemed friendly and harmless, and so when he took a seat next to me in the waiting area, I wasn’t as taken aback as I would have otherwise been.
Italian men are both attractive and pleasant. It’s nothing like what I expected, which was… well…
Unfit to print.
He tells me that he has been learning to speak English for 4 months, now. We trade stories about the difficulties of our respective languages (I have trouble with verb endings; he never remembers to use the word “it,” which doesn’t exist in Italian. Things simply are. Or is. It doesn’t mean a thing (…if you ain’t got that swing… do-a-do-a-do-a-do-a-do-a-do-a….). He says that he also has trouble “when two words together can mean something different than they mean apart, and so I have to make sure not to pause too much or I make no sense.”
Like “Watch Out!”
…I’d never thought of that.
He tells me that he thinks I am “oh so very lucky.” When asked why, he says that I grew up speaking English, “the most important language in the world.” I tell him that I am embarrassed that most Americans grow up only speaking that seemingly important language, and little else. He tells me that he is also learning to speak German. “It is so close, you know. And the Germans, they speak excellent English.”
He tells me that Italy is a wonderful country and that he is proud to be Italian, save the politics (“the mafia,” he says a bit loudly “is everywhere!”) I chuckle, thinking of my hometown and how it too was run by the Italian mafia.
I keep this to myself.
He asks what I liked about my trip. I speak slowly and with short phrases.
“In Italy, everyone makes time for things. For lunch, for family. In America, your time belongs to your work. To your job. It does not matter if you have a family. The people who work in shops do not get time during the day for lunch like they do here. I eat my lunch at my desk. I run errands during my free time. There is not a certain time you must do things. Everything is open all of the time, but it means that you must be responsible for everything, to everything, all of the time.”
If you don’t know already, most shops in Italy are closed during the afternoon. Moreover, most eateries don’t open up until very specified times that are the universal lunch & dinner hours. Not only was I always hungry at the wrong time, but I tried to go to a certain shop on 4 separate occasions, and I found it closed each and every time. Ah, it’s 2pm. Ah, it’s too late. Ah, it’s lunchtime. Ah, it’s Thursday. (…THURSDAY!) I resolved that it was a sign that I didn’t need to buy anything at the awful euro to dollar exchange rate.
A joke often repeated on my trip to bestfriend: “Remember that time Italy was closed?”
Frequent Question: “When do people buy things over here? How does anyone expect to make any money?” Quaint answer: They don’t.
This life/work response was also what I told bestfriend’s roommate, who also speaks a bit of English. She has a thick, southern Italian accent, but knows a number of English phrases, which made her speech much more authentic. “I love Sex and the City!” she tells me. (Imagine her sounding like this, though: “Zye louve Zex and Za Cittee!”)
Yes, Ludavica. We love it too.
As an aside, Ludavica tells me that in Italy, “He’s Just Not That Into You” is called “He Does Not Like You.”
(“I do not know whyeee zee American men no want to marry. Een Italy, zee men marry no problem! Someone to cook, andz clean, zey wan zat!”) I follow by telling her that in America, men have learned to cook and clean and that they would rather watch American football than marry. She laughs loudly, and I laugh loudly. She seems to understand what I’m getting at.
My airport friend tells me that he thinks family is important, and that he lives in a flat above his sister. Who lives in a flat above his parents. Lucca has a girlfriend, who he will marry next May. They want to honeymoon in America, but are concerned that two weeks is not enough time to travel everywhere they want to see. He likes Massachusetts and the east coast. He’d like to see San Francisco. I tell him that there are lots of wonderful things to see within driving distance of the east coast. DC. New York. Chicago. I realize that they are sort of similar.
He also needs a new passport with a magnetic strip, which, apparently, we require, now. “For the 2001. For the security.”
He pauses and says that he does “not understand why people would want to hurt others. To leave their families. Everyone has problems, but you must work them out.” As an American, I seem to be the target of much sympathy with regard to September 11th, particularly in airports.
“I leave to go get newspaper, I leave bag. I will be back. There are no explosives in there or anyzing!”
He tells me that he is thankful for the Italian way of life.
“In May,” he says, “I will live with my wife and be very happy.”
I guess he hasn’t seen “He Doesn’t Like You.”