Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Assisi, Italy

Our group went to Assisi last Sunday. We left Cagli in a rain storm, and arrived to find Assisi, not only dry, but sunny and beautiful as well. It was well worth the nausea-inducing bus ride.

Words cannot describe how beautiful the city was, but perhaps a few photos can.

Yep, that's Assisi on top of the hill. It kind of reminded me of The Lord of the Rings. We walked all the way up the hill from new Assisi. It was a long way up, but well worth the view.

This is the view from the top of the hill by the cathedral. St. Francis is buried in the lower chapel of this cathedral. Both the lower and upper chapels of the cathedral are magnificent, however, they do not allow photography.

The old town surrounding the cathedral is full of alleyways and walkways around the streets. The effect is very charming, and I'm sure it's easy to get lost if you don't know where you're going.

This is a shop that sells, you guessed it, cheese and well as spices, olive oil, wine, and pasta. I had to take a picture, because a) totally my favorite kind of shop, and b) the decor was fabulous.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Culture Shock U-Curve: A Video Presentation

Yesterday we were charged with presenting on Lysgaard's U-Curve theory of cultural adjustment. Knowing this topic backwards and forwards from numerous lit reviews, I decided to suggest that my group make a little multimedia presentation that would best "show" how we've experienced the U-Curve, rather than just "tell."

The four stages of the U-Curve are:

Honeymoon: You've moved overseas. Overseas is pretty darn awesome. You love life and everything in it.

Crisis: Dear Sir and/or Madam, living overseas sucks when you have to actually figure out how to complete tasks like paying for the toilette, ordering a cappuccino, or asking for directions.

Recovery: Now that I know enough to say "Vore uno cappuccino," and, "Dove le bagno?" things are looking up.

Adjustment: Overseas? This isn't overseas! It's home!

Below is the result of our collective efforts.

And that's the U-Curve theory of cross-cultural adjustment in a nutshell. Not only was our apartment dark and scary (though the landlords were FANTASTIC), it also had parasite-infested beds that made us itch. After a quick visit to the hospital, we got antihistamine and a new, bug-free apartment.

Corpus Domini: Cagli, Italy

Last weekend was the celebration of Corpus Domini in Cagli, Italy.

During Corpus Domini, a procession travels through the streets of Cagli and visits all twelve Catholic parishes. The path is lined with anise and rosemary, and the townspeople decorate the portion of the street in front of their house with floral designs.

Corpus Domini begins at the Duomo in the main square, and the procession begins with a priest bearing a cross, walking on the floral pathway. The town's scout troop follows along the edges of the street not covered in petals. Then the city's band follows, playing a marching dirge.

After the band a procession of Cagli's priests follow bearing an ivory canopy. Under the canopy one priest carries the body of Christ to each parish. After this, all the townspeople follow, crushing the flowers beneath their feet. As the herbs are crushed, they release a pungent, earthy fragrance into the air that hovers for hours after the festivities are over.

Our day began early with our landlords, Giampietro and Daniela Chegai. We, the graduate student team, helped Giampietro prepare and place his floral arrangement in the street.

Every year Giampietro designs a cross of flower petals and wheat. This shot was taken from the window of my apartment, and shows the beginning of the procession with the priest bearing the cross. Along the side you can see the scouts walking along the floral pathway.

Unfortunately, I do not know the history behind the celebration. One of the other student groups is producing a story on the topic and I hope to learn more then. In the meantime, the town of Cagli has organized a special procession of saints for the Americans tomorrow, and the boys will be taking part by bearing one of the canopies. Perhaps there will be another photo blog post tomorrow!

Until then, Arrivederci!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cagli, Italy: A Small Town of Kodak Moments

My eye starts twitching with stress very time I think about the enormous amount of photos I have on my computer and need to upload to Flickr. So instead I've decided to put up a few snapshots to satiate your burning desire for Italian snapshots. Enjoy. Captions follow photos.

Beware next time you travel to this small town in the Appenines. While you can drive 50 kilometers an hour through the winding streets of old town, you must restrain yourself from carrying, mentioning, or using a trumpet. At least that's what I assume from this signage, because if they hate trumpets so much that they put it on a street sign, then they must mean "ban" in the strongest sense of the word.

Such is the view from my apartment on Via F.M. Tocci. The building we live in was built in the early 1300's. While quite dank, the landlords are the sweetest couple with the cutest, if naughtiest, little 3-year-old boy I've ever seen.

Editor's Note: My nephew, Ethan, is the cutest 3-year-old boy I've ever seen. He is, however, NOT the naughtiest. This, therefore, makes Adriano qualified for the above superlative.

This is why I love Italy. No more words needed.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Obama Invited to Dinner with Italian Family

On Thursday my classmates and I were invited to dinner with an Italian man, Emidio. Last weekend we had met him at the Festa de la Republica celebration in the main piazza of Cagli. Last night was the dinner date.

After meeting him in the piazza, and riding with him through a harrowing, Italian car ride to his house at the top of the mount in New Cagli, we arrived to the most beautiful panorama.

Emidio's house overlooks the entire old town of Cagli, as well as the three mountains surrounding it. The view was breathtaking, the cats were cute, and the cherries from the tree in his backyard were delicious. Suddenly the stress from the past week evaporated. And this was before we even got inside the house.

Inside the house Emidio's wife was cooking us dinner. She is the chef at Buona Scena, a restaurant that overlooks one of the mountains near Cagli. As she was finishing the antipasto, the appetizers, Emidio showed us his new plasma TV and satellite cable.

He kindly flipped through the channels until he came to an English news program, Fox News. It just so happened that it was 7:30 p.m. in Cagli, and 12:30 p.m. in Green Bay, WI, where I am from. Fox News was showing a live broadcast of President Obama's speech at Southwest High School in Green Bay - less than a mile from my parents' home.

Politics of Change

Having lived overseas while George W. Bush was President of the United Staes, and now living overseas while Barack Obama is President, I feel in a unique position to realize just what America's last election meant to the world.

While I can't speak for everyone, those I've talked to have a sense of hope and adopted pride that the U.S. took a step toward progress by electing our first President of mixed race.

Diversity is also a strong issue in other countries, in fact, my team and I are producing a story on that very topic in Cagli. But what makes some countries different, is that they seem to look to America to set the tone and pace for progress. That's not all-ecompassing, mind you, but when Americans elected Barack Obama as President, the world saw us taking a step in the right direction. And they want to follow.

Progress Translates

I knew Obama was planning to speak in Green Bay on Thursday, I just never thought I'd be able to watch the live broadcast...from Italy.

So there I was, sitting with a nice, Italian man and two American girls, watching the President of the United States speak in my hometown while I was half a world away. It was a great moment.

I've only been learning Italian for 10 days, and so all I could say was, "Sono di Green Bay! Ma abito a Green Bay!" to try to show my pride to Emidio that the President of the United States was speaking from my home town.

Emidio, bless his heart, understood perfectly.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Throwin' the Deuces

The funny thing about cross-cultural communication is that the familiar suddenly takes on new meaning. Even nonverbal communication may cause cultural misunderstanding as one gesture can have several meanings across a variety of cultures.

Take the American sign for peace, for example. All one need do is hold out one's pointer and middle fingers together in a "V" and the universal sign for solidarity is understood.

But do the same in England and it's another story. Because throwing the deuces in England is a big F.U. to whomever is on the receiving end.

This is why I found my visit to San Pietro at the Vatican City in Italy a bit more entertaining than planned. I'm sorry if I offend any Catholics with the following - it's meant in good humor.

You can't tell by this picture, but dude below is throwing down as we speak. Unfortunately, I run average height and the snapshot is lacking for adequate perspective.

This guy and his lady helpmates are actually quite welcoming. He's sitting forward in his seat as if to show his excitement at your arrival. However, if you're English, his message is entirely different.

Beware if you're a Brit, because this bronze pope is the first to welcome you into San Pietro. "Welcome" is a relative term in this discussion.

Peace out!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A talk with Miss Cleo

Yesterday the other graduate students and I were taking a stroll through the streets of Cagli. Having woefully underpacked (me, anyways), we were on a mission to get our shop on. Having spied a delicious Italian leather handbag store during our earlier tour of the town, we decided to head in that direction and drop of a few Euros.

On our way through the streets, trying to figure out exactly where that particular store was located, an elderly lady heard us speaking English from her terrace.

Her companion called down to get our attention, and the lady asked if we were Americans.

We replied that yes, indeed we were.

As we stood there, talking to her as she stood 2 stories up, another lady walked by and invited us in. Being of the philosophy that, if you're visiting a foreign country and the locals invite you somewhere you go, we went.

We ended up staying for over an hour, drinking Cokes, and talking to Cleo, a Cagliese woman who used to live in Denver, Colorado. Through Cleo's English, Carla's Italian, and our collective broken Italian, we pieced together the story of Cleo and her family.

An Italian-American Love Story

Cleo Anderson, now 92 years old, speaks beautiful English. She should as she spent much of her adult life with her husband in America.

They met after World War II, when he was stationed in Italy. They fell in love and were married.

Cleo's sons and grandchildren still live in Arizona, and Cleo and her husband used to live together in Cagli.

Her husband died three days ago.

When we inquired about her surname, Cleo teared up and explained that her husband just passed away.

We struggled to hold back tears ourselves, until Carla, Cleo's caregiver, came in with refreshments.

The lack of stronger shared language skills in our group kept the rest of the conversation light.

We told her we were journalism and photography students living in Cagli for only a month.

Carla and Cleo encouraged us to visit Cagli again the future, and even invited us back to live with them. If that doesn't necessarily pan out, we certainly have plans to visit them often while we are in Cagli.

While this sweet lady's memory is fading, and her life now a little lonelier, she encapsulates what is so beautiful about this small town.

That four curious students visiting Italy can have a lovely afternoon in the company of two dear women, determined to enjoy a moment of true Italian hospitality and genuine cross-cultural understanding.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Big Knockers

Yard space is something a 13th century town has little of. The medieval stone homes built inside the Old Town wall are directly on the cobblestone streets, and the only space left between each complex is an alleyway that leads to the few gates of the city. So Italians in the small town of Cagli have developed a different way to show off their creativity and pride in their home.

Lace curtains, clean windows, expertly planted and beautifully arranged window boxes, and elaborate doorways are all ways that modern Italians take pride in their ancient homes. Especially the doorways.

Most of the old homes have stone archways supporting a heavy wooden door. The Romans were nothing if not expert arch builders. No doubt the stones are likely the original pieces placed by workers long ago. The wood doors, however, may be more modern.

Most outer doors that you see on the street are merely entryways into a courtyard, if the home is built around a courtyard, or they provide entry into a hallway that leads to several family apartments. Most places have electric buzzers for visitors to announce their presence to each apartment, but before electricity, people had to rely on knockers making enough noise for people in the apartments to hear.

Some of these knockers can still be seen, and the design and ornateness is just another way for Italians to show off their creativity and design. Below is an example from Rome.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A bit of Home-a in Roma

Milwaukee, all the training you done give me came into play the other night.

There I was, full of Italian vino and pasta outside of Termini station. All this Milwaukee gal wanted was a beer (birre), but Italy is not exactly well known for its brew.

My apartment, being close to Termini, was a convenient location to hit the late-night supermarket in the station, and so I decided to take a gander and see what kind of oat soda I could find.

After one lap around the supermarket, I finally find the proverbial goldmine at the end of the rainbow (read: aisle). A delicious Weissbier being just the thing, I take a half liter and pay up.

A kindly Italian man was nice enough to pop my top (of the beer bottle, that is, sicko), and I walked out of the doors tasting the delicious alcoholic bounty of hops, wheat, water.

"Aaaaah, this is just what I needed," I purred.

The three Australian men standing next to me did a double take.