Saturday, May 27, 2006

Linguistic Challenges

I am posting two blogs today, while I am at an internet point. We do not have internet access in our little home as there is no phone line and no wi'fi signal that we can find. To reach an internet point we must wait from 30 to 45 minutes for the regional bus to come along, travel into Anzio Colonia or Anzio proper, pay and check email. Thusly, today I am transferring two blog posts that I had written and saved to disc this past week, so read on!

Adventures in Linguistic Adaptation

It’s not like I was coming here completely ignorant. I studied Italian informally for about a year. I was conversing somewhat smoothly in my conversational class. I arrived confident that I would be able to have basic conversations and understand what we’d need to get around and conduct daily transaction. It turns out that I was overconfident.

Perhaps it is the local dialect (this is the option I’d prefer), or maybe my ears are just not functioning properly. I am, after all, an American who has been learning Italian by listening to other Americans speak, and the inflection, pace and clarity are different in that instance. Still. It’s rather demoralizing when basic words I KNOW that I know are suddenly hard to understand and I must ask the speaker to repeat them.

Every day seems like a little victory. Tuesday (May 23) I procured for myself a haircut. This task was necessary and seemed daunting. I had a flash of fear at the mere thought. While Bryan checked email in Anzio proper, I took a stroll around the centro and came across a little hair salon. I cautiously peered inside through the beaded curtain over the door and saw that there were two employees with no customers. A fine time to go, thought I, as I could make a spectacle of myself to only two people instead of a roomful of onlookers. This proved a good idea; they were not only patient, they were kind. The younger girl, who was a helper of sorts, smiled a lot and seemed amused that an Americana had stumbled into their neck of the woods. The stylist, professional and businesslike, patiently determined what sort of cut I had in mind and got her scissors flying. There was rudimentary conversation about where I was from and was my husband an Italian, but beyond that I couldn’t venture far linguistically. But I walked out with a new ‘do and another little bit of confidence.

Wednesday-another day, another language adventure-we ventured to the little community of Anzio Colonia for market day. One street was closed to traffic for the array of trucks and booths selling clothes, shoes, and food. We wandered through to see what was on display and to observe the locals as they expertly navigated the stalls. We jumped in and purchased cheese (Grana Padano for about ¼ the price we’d pay in New Mexico); fresh produce (the baby artichokes looked too wonderful to pass up); and a pair of beach shoes for Bryan. He also bought a messenger bag, a little tote that the men around here are wearing. He looks rather sporty with it slung across his shoulder.

The bus is another matter altogether. We are located in the beach section of Anzio, a bit north of town. To reach Anzio proper or the nearby town of Nettuno we must take a regional bus. The price is very inexpensive, but so far our forays into this transit system have proven it to be less than punctual. We have not figured out exactly what the schedule should be, but locals waiting at the stops with us are constantly gesticulating their consternation at the tardiness, indicating that they, too, are not happy with the service. Why is it that when we are traveling north, four buses pass us going southward but when we are traveling southerly, all the buses are heading north? It must be a Murphy’s Law clause written into the bus scheduling.

We did have a rather interesting experience Tuesday, though. In the main piazza, after my haircut, while Bryan went to the bank I watched the people milling about. There was an older man, obviously foreign and probably British, fishing around in the fountain with a cane, apparently having dropped something, or perhaps cleaning out some coins, I thought. In the gelateria nearby, he entered as we were about to leave and he gave us an expression that exuded amusement and openness, but he also seemed a little confused. We said, in English, that he starts by paying at the register. He asked about a couple flavor names he didn’t understand, about our American accents, and began to tell us about his visit around the area.

He was, he said, last in Anzio sixty years ago. He had been part of the military landing in Salerno as well as in Anzio. Many of his friends died here and he came to visit the cemetery. We listened to his experiences and thanked him for sharing them with us. It is emotional to me, I am not sure why, to hear of these individuals who fought in a place like this, in a war that was so different from the ones currently engaged in, and so much more defined. He interested me, and he seemed grateful that we were took an interest in him. He rode the bus with us, his hotel not far from our home, and pointed out spots along the way, explaining the maneuvers the military had undertaken in this section. I am glad to have met him.

Thursday we went to the Giorgio-recommended pizzeria nearby, Pizza DOC, where they serve genuine Napoletana pizza. We sat down and the owner, at the oven, yelled over for us to shout out our orders. The first bite confirmed in my heart and my mouth why we had so wanted to live here. No matter what brick-oven-baked pizza I’d consumed in America, none have ever come close to this melty, thin-crusted bit of heaven. One bite and my memory flooded back; THIS is the taste. Oh yes, I remember how good this is and how dull our tastebuds are at home without it.

The owner stopped by the table to inquire about the food. When we rolled our eyes heavenward and praised his culinary abilities, he asked where we were from. “Gli stati uniti,” I replied. He raised his eyebrows and was speechless a moment. “AAAAHHHH, che bello! Americani!” We had a brief conversation, another little victory for me. But more than that, he seemed genuinely surprised and pleased that we would find his little pizzeria, all the way from America. We’ll return; it is located just seven blocks away. Next time, we’ll split a pizza, though. The pie spread over the edges of the plate and filled me to the brim. Che bello.

copyright 2006 Valerie Schneider

1 comment:

Geek Girl said...

I would have enjoyed listening to that man's stories as well. Fitting since this weekend is Memorial Day.