So it’s only been a few days, and I’m starting to get accustomed to living with my host family. They are such wonderful, generous people! I have been struggling with my Italian though. It’s really frustrating not being able to express yourself, or to make yourself understood. But Loredana and I have gotten to the point where we can communicate pretty well. She speaks slowly, and I respond minimally. It especially helps that she doesn’t speak in dialect. Italy is a country that’s very divided regionally, so local dialects can vary greatly from standard Italian. There is a local dialect here, which is difficult for me to understand. Up north, though, where Loredana is from, the Italian is more standard. (Correction: There is actually a Piemontese dialect, which I wouldn’t understand. But when Loredana is here in the Marches region, she does not speak in dialect.)
I’ve also found that it’s easier for me to follow conversations among adults than teenagers. They speak a lot more slowly. Also, younger people are probably using slang. Following conversations at all is really hard. It seems I lose any grasp of Italian unless it is one person, speaking slowly, directly to me.
Anyway, I’ve been trying to soak in the experiences of this area that don’t require words to appreciate, like going to the beach and going for walks.
Sunday was my first afternoon spent at the beach. Loredana and I met up with some friends of hers, and we walked along the boardwalk.
They call this area “la riviera delle palme” because it is lined with palm trees. The women chatted. I alternately tried to keep up with their conversation, and dreamily gazed around me, marvelling at the fact that I’m actually here.
One thing that’s really cool at this beach is the “chalet.” It’s a French word that refers to the bars that line the beach, where you can buy coffee, drinks, food, or gelato. And in front of each are the rows of chairs and umbrellas. There are over 100 chalet in San Benedetto. Everyone seems to have “theirs” that they go to. At Loredana’s, everyone knew her and treated her like an old friend.
I got a little sunburned, and everyone here was quite proud. I was assured that tomorrow it would turn more tan from red, and that it looked good. I had apparently been too pale for Italy. Then they proceeded to compare sun spots and possible areas of melanoma. (Parental note: I have been consistently and liberally applying sunscreen.)
The next morning, I took a long stroll through Acquaviva, the area around their house (where the medieval castle is), just appreciating and trying to get used to this town.
I keep having these moments (usually when I look out at a sudden view of the countryside, with its patchwork of farms and country houses and towns) when I suddenly have to say to myself: I am in Italy. And I just cannot believe that I’m here, after talking about coming here for so long, and learning so much about this country and its culture. I am living inside of this spectacular view. I feel so lucky, and I am so grateful to be here.
I guess that’s the feeling I’ll try to conjure the next time I feel like shouting something in English, and instead have to settle for expressing a general sentiment with my small Italian vocabulary, aided by enthusiastic miming.