Thursday, August 30, 2012

this will not be interesting unless you want to be invited to my pity party

 Day 1.    leonardo the plumber has just arrived. unexpectedly. i am in my pajamas. i am wearing my glasses. i have mascara beneath my eyes because no matter how well i wash my face before bed, i always awaken looking like i rolled in from a party around 3:00 a.m. i have not brushed my teeth. there are dirty dishes in the sink. um. isn't my helpful doorman supposed to announce that there is a workman here and get my okay? let's not just send the workmen up and assume that i'm dressed. maybe hanging out our laundry this early was a signal that we are ready for the day?

and leonardo and i had to play a game of charades in which he wanted to use the trashcan and i thought he wanted a trash bag and i offered him a big black trash bag because that is what i would use if i was doing work and he shook his head "no", so i offered him a see-through pink bag that smells like lavender and he shook his head "no" and finally i realized he wanted the trashcan itself and i took the trash bag out of the trashcan because he is using the trashcan to ...fix something? and i am now embarrassed because all our trash sits in a see-through pink bag in the living room. he is going to know i finished off a pie for breakfast. oh. maybe he wanted a bucket?

also, mike had hot water for his shower this morning. mike is happy. if the hot water goes away, mike will not be happy. please don't make the hot water go away.

leonardo fixed everything. he showed me what he fixed. he had replaced stuff and all the water was in non-leaking hot-to-cold working condition. he did not respond to my, "molto bene" or "grazie mille" so i resorted to the tried and true sign of appreciation: clapping. whatever. at least he got to go home and tell his wife about the stupido applauso by la donna americana.

Day 2.  thanks to mike's most excellent english friend at work (not only has he obtained for us the very important american shows of louie, breaking bad, and true blood ; he also knows where i can obtain cheddar cheese and cilantro. plus his lovely girlfriend has told me how to cross the street without being hit and where i can get my hair done--are these not wonderful people?) there are air conditioning people here. with air conditioners. that are being installed.

sometimes, i make fun of this italian experience because i am by turns baffled and amused by the cultural differences and the foreign-to-me-behavior.

often, however, i make fun of these things because i am embarrassed. i know the failings are mine. that the people who live here are going about their daily life and then they encounter me, the person who is in the wrong. i am in their country and i don't speak the language that is the language of this country because i suck and so they have to guess what the hell i'm asking of them. and they are polite, they smile, they try their best to understand my pointing and speaking in english, they try to help me with my math failings where money is concerned, and the workmen step outside to smoke without my having to ask.

there are many times throughout the day that make me want to cry in shame and frustration. i know in america, many people wonder why all of our signs and ATM machines are in multiple languages. it's america. we speak english. i know our culture supports being self-made, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps: if you want to live here, learn the language.

but if the people who are new to our country and are struggling to learn english no matter how many lessons of rosetta stone they've completed, they must be so grateful to recognize words that help them figure out what to do and how to proceed and where they are going. because i know that every time i see a word i understand, that is how i feel. i hope that when i return to america and use an atm machine that asks which language i would like to use, i will actually take notice of this and my heart will be glad, knowing that this is a lifeline for people.

Day 1 again.   last night, i was returning from an outside trip with the dogs. an elderly woman was battling her heavy suitcase across our courtyard(?) and down the steps and into the building. i could so easily have picked up the suitcase with one hand and carried it to the elevator, and i couldn't help her because i didn't know how to ask if i could. I racked my pitiful italian words to see if anything even remotely resembling "may I help" sprang to mind, but i had nothing. obviously, i could not just walk up and carry it for her, because she would think i was stealing it and i know i would freak out if someone did that to me and it would be like borat when he encounters gypsies. so i had to walk behind her, watching her struggle and knowing that i had the strength to help her and not the words.

Day 2 again.   so, maybe today the workmen are maybe smoking in here. i have asthma that i have mainly outgrown but which smoking can cause to return. i am allergic to smoke. but what am i to do? i can't ask them not to smoke because i don't know how. all i can do is open all the doors and windows and shut the dogs and jack in a room so that they are not breathing the surgeon-general-warning-whose-memo-was-obviously-pilfered-by-italian-postal-workers. because there are not any anti-smoking laws here of which i am aware. and yes, i do know that italians have a lower incidence of cancer and heart disease than americans.  i kind of can't stop staring. that is a seriously long ash on his cigarette. where is that ash going to go?
sure am glad you care so much about me that you opened a door so i could breathe. really generous of you. thanks. 

in other news: what do you think these men are doing? and how do you think they got up there?is this the italian equivalent of walking the appalachian trail?


David Glasgow said...

Amy, as cool and funny and smart and wonderfully kind as your husband is... well, I don't want to say you're more of these things 'cause, well, he knows people, but... I really wish we'd gotten to know each other while you still lived on the other side of the hill, instead of the other side of the planet. Jack has great parents. :-)

papersatchel said...

Another gem!

akt said...

Wow--thank-you David! I wish we would have gotten together on Joseph Drive as well. And a lot of people feel I'm like a superior version of Mike, so you're in good company. :)

Post a Comment