Hit The Road
When in Rome, pray for a translator
Despite paying for a three-month online membership to Rosetta Stone, my Italian vocabulary is limited to colors, counting from one to 10 and uttering inane statements such as "The man has a pen" and "The boy is under the table."
My inadequacy has nothing to do with the program itself, which is wonderfully put together in a way that makes learning language feel like a game. No, it has more to do with the fact that I've been so absorbed with work and friends and watching all three seasons of "The Office" that learning the Italian language has been pushed aside.
Until now, of course, the weekend before I leave for Italy with my two best friends.
We are excited about this trip, having made numerous trips to purchase miniature toiletries and containers, garment bags and enough underwear to outfit all of Castiglioncello.
Emily has created documents with all of our trip information for our parents, and Erika has purchased our tickets to visit the Uffizi Gallery the day after we arrive in Florence. We've managed not to over-plan without risking having to wander around the cities looking for things to do. The only thing that we have to worry about now is whether we'll be able to ask where the nearest restroom is; we've been told that they are few and far between.
Besides the bathroom situation, we're to expect some other unpleasant cultural differences, most of which sound similar to my experiences in England and France.
"Italians think air conditioning is unhealthy," said another friend, Erica, the bride whose wedding we are traveling to, explained. "When I was little, my friend's dad picked us up from a tennis lesson, and when my friend said she was hot, her dad tossed her a sweater instead of turning on the air or rolling down the windows."
The list continues with an Italian aversion to deodorant, a shortage of ice for drinks, and a lot of male attention.
But what's the point of a trip to a foreign country without some sense of culture shock? Who would travel if there weren't some variation in the ways that people live?
DESPITE MY rampage against the stereotype of the American who expects everything to be as it is in America, I'm afraid that I'll still be the American who hopes that everyone else speaks English (or American, as my English friends like to say with disdain, as in, "You don't speak English, you speak American").
I vow not to resort to speaking loudly and slowly, but I will surely default to hand gestures and an inclination to speak Spanish, the only other language I know.
But Erica says the Italians, like the French, simply appreciate the effort if one at least attempts to speak the language.
In that case, knowing how to say "The bread is on the plate" might actually come in handy.
Joy Uyeno travels frequently throughout the year, and her column geared toward beginning travelers or youths experiencing their first extended stay abroad appears the second Sunday each month in the Star-Bulletin Travel section.