Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Corpus Christi from Another Perspective

by Annagrisel Álvarez
CORPUS CHRISTI IS A common tradition in South America. Especially in Ecuador, my country, where processions and mass reunions take place this time of the year. Obviously devotion characterizes these kind of religious celebrations. In the 22 years I have lived in Ecuador, I can say I never went to a Corpus Christi procession, even though I consider myself pretty religious. Processions are usually for people involved with the church activities, but not necessarily for all parishioners.

Cagli was celebrating its second procession of 2011. This time it was going to pass by the street where I happen to be living in. Neighbors, friends, everybody, get together for the event. Every detail is thoroughly taken care of, each square meter is filled with graphics, flowers and farina. Green leaves decorate the sides of the street, being this, the result of the conjunction of committed hands and meticulous minds.

Gina is my person and my neighbor. To make a very long story short, after taking several pictures, she came to me and told me that instead of wasting my time taking pictures of her I should enjoy the feast, which started long time ago. I know I must have looked confused, so she explained that the feast starts once they start putting it together. When they start gathering the flowers and all the tools they need to make it happen.

The situation seemed pretty simple. First, stop taking pictures. Second, help, as she handed me a bag full of flowers. I consider that my understanding of Italian is decent so I started pouring the flowers all over the street. Minutes later I had Gina looking not very happy, telling me that I was supposed to put the flour first. Of course, the misunderstanding occurred because of the language barrier. Even though, I think that the cultural shock I felt at first was totally resolved once I became part of the whole organizing process. After being there, I felt part of the community, the people in my street were so welcoming and kind that I felt the total concept of being actually immersed in the culture.

It was not only the first time I celebrated Corpus Christi in a different way, but it was the first time I was in Italy surrounded by the procession, the Cagliese and the feeling of being part of such an unique and special tradition.

Piazza Talk

by Katie Bliven
SUNDAY EVENING I was sitting in the piazza with my good friend Romano and Dr. Bonfini. A Cagliese businessman joined us for conversation. His skills are internationally known and he is a sought after master of his craft. As a result, visitors are often drawn to him and offer their hospitality if he were to ever consider expanding his business to the United States.

Over the course of the evening, I had the pleasure of speaking with this man for nearly three hours. While he appreciates the American interest in his talent and knows that he is capable of succeeding in the United States, he explained that all this talk about expanding his business is what he considers “piazza talk.” It’s genuine in the moment, but tends to lack commitment.

In the past, he has attempted more than once to take a visitor up on his or her offer of assistance only to be disappointed with the outcome. Promises are broken because the person who appeared so eager to help was really just being polite. In Italy, these offers are extended thoughtfully and with the utmost sincerity. If a Cagliese says that you can come and spend a month in his palazzo with your family, he means it and would be thrilled should you decided to take him up on his offer.

Last night I ran into this businessman near City Hall and thanked him again for the great conversation we had the night before. He invited me to join him later that evening for more conversation at Caffe Commercio. I walked up to the Caffe after dinner and found him sitting with a large group of students. I stepped inside to order a glass of prosecco, fully intending to join the group. Instead I sat down with another local friend of mine who was enjoying a quiet drink in the window seat.

I never made it back outside to interact with the businessman and felt terrible about it as I walked home. Did he think that my request for his contact information so we could stay in touch was insincere? Did he think I was just another superficial American whose offer to assist him should he ever travel to the United States was just more piazza talk?

I found myself consumed with these thoughts as I fell asleep, uncertain whether I had offended him and concerned about how he perceived my behavior. I woke up today thinking about it still and decided that I will seek him out to apologize and make sure that he knows I am sincere. I realize though that my motivation to do that is partially selfish – I need to reduce my anxiety about the interaction and the only way to do that is to eliminate the uncertainty about how it was perceived on his side.

Intercultural Dissonance

by Lynne Tarter
IN Césare Baldeshi’s beautiful garden, overlooking the swimming pool and vista rich with mountains and farmland, our dialogue is relaxed and varied. Arms akimbo, popping to the edge of the chair, reclining back, standing up for emphasis, Césare ensures I understand what he is saying.

Césare’s passion for his work transcends language barriers; it pours from his very being with a beaming smile and hearty chuckle. Although his English is very refined, I wonder why he chooses to speak only in Italian with me. While my etic knowledge is not deep enough to definitively answer this question, upon reflection, perhaps his values inform this decision. Césare’s values brought him back from other parts of Europe to dedicate his psychology practice to the troubled and abused youth of Cagli. These decisions help me understand the attachment he has to his birthplace, thus, perhaps choosing to speak Italian as a demonstration of his loyalty and love for his homeland.

I observe Césare carefully during our conversation, and combine both the non-verbal cues and the limited Italian I understand to comprehend a portion of the dialogue. Peppering in a few Italian words into my reply, and using my body language to further transmit my meaning, Césare maintains eye contact with me while I speak. These techniques “allow partners to transcend linguistic limitations and minimize the perception of cultural differences as problematic in intercultural relationships” (Interpersonal Communication in the Global Village, p. 292).

Applying these strategies, I ease further into acculturation through an enriching dialogue with Césare Baldeshi.

Worm Dust

by Victoria Caswell
I KNOW THE STORY everyone wants to hear before they study abroad is how they developed a mysterious rash that never went away. Mine started with a few bumps on my feet. Then my arms. Then my back. Gradually the bumps grew out of control. The bumps just kept getting bigger and itchier. I know it sounds disgusting. It disgusted me.

After a few days Giovanni took me to the pharmacy. The pharmacist took one look at my arms and prescribed a cream to use twice a day. It amazed me that a diagnosis could be made that fast, but the best part was the cream was only 9.50 eu. I know I couldn’t get that kind of service at any pharmacy in America. I then hurried home to try the cream.

Several days later the rash kept getting worse. I tried spraying deet and citronella bug spray in my room. I also tried sleeping with the windows closed, in case I was getting bit in the middle of the night. Finally after the deet didn’t work, Erin came to my room to check my bed for bed bugs. We pulled back the sheets and the mattress pad on my bed, but it looked normal. Although I have to admit, I’m not really sure what I was looking for.

I had had enough. I saw Angela in the piazza and she had an Italian who speaks English take me to the hospital. We walked in and a paramedic immediately saw me. She explained that the mysterious bumps were a chicken pox-like reaction to the dust that Italian tree worms shed when they transform. I would be allergic to that. I was quickly given a cream and was sent on my way.

Flash forward a few hours. I had spread the cream all over my body, gone to the river with my roommates and had eaten a cheese and tomato panino in the piazza. My tongue had swollen up and my throat was constricted. So I went back to the hospital.

Once again, I was rushed in, only this time I was put on a stretcher and I had three doctors around me. I had a stint put in my arm and what I assume was the equivalent of an epi-pen injected. There was blood everywhere. What really struck me was how none of my information was taken in any of my interactions with medical people and how I was given medicine without being asked what else I’m allergic to. I was impressed with the speedy service. If I were to go to an American hospital I would have had to wait two hours.

In the end, I don’t know what the real cause of the reaction was. For all I know it was either the cream or the panino.


by Caitlin Bletscher
PERCEPTION HAS THE ABILITY to open our eyes to more than just the senses. It is a powerful tool in self-discovery and evaluation.

A large part of intercultural communication competence is recognizing cultural values in our own lives, recognizing how they directly impact our perceptions (Dominant US Cultural Patterns).

After making my weekly trip to Cagli’s largest grocery store, Coal, I filled my basket with various necessities before lining up to reach the cash register. Upon arriving to the register, I wait patiently for several minutes as the proceeding man bags, then pays for his groceries. After loading my food onto the rotating belt, an Italian woman swiftly walks ahead of me, places down her two items in front of mine, and grabs for her wallet.

I found myself immediately becoming defensive, internally asking, “Doesn’t she see there is a solid line of people waiting behind her?” In the United States, courtesy, specifically in line at the grocery store, is not just encouraged, but frowned upon if not followed in suit. Because this woman did not hold these same cultural values, my perception changed to where I wasn’t recognizing nor valuing our differences, but was questioning why she did not fit into my cultural viewpoint.

The patience of waiting in line at the grocery store allowed me to contemplate this act of cultural incompetence as I remembered being told that most Italians would not, while in line, offer up their position for someone with a smaller amount of items. It isn’t because of a lack of curtsey or an obscene act, but simply a cultural faux pas in the United States that isn’t valued here in Italy.

By dissecting cultural values and recognizing differences, I was able to gain one step further towards intercultural competence.


by Emily C. Gagel
AFTER CONNECTING on a more personal level with the people of Cagli, I have begun to take great interest in the importance placed on family, the extended family and maintaining closeness across these ties. Many older, adult children still live at home even into their thirties and forties. According to The Italian Way, this stems from the cultural norm of family ties being very strong. The immediate family nucleus of parents and children is closely tied to their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

When I look at my family in the U.S., our ties are very different. Both of my parents grew up on the east coast, but chose to move clear across the country when they started college at the age of eighteen. Today, both rarely speak to their brothers and sisters. In fact, when one is contacted by their family it is seen as a bit of a nuisance.

As I prepare for life after Cagli, I hope to take the importance placed on family in the Italian culture home with me. I admire their support system within the family and see it as a way to better face life’s trials.

Unknown Faux Pas

by Dianne Conlee
ADJUSTING TO LIFE in Cagli has been fun and filled with social mistakes. My goal has been to learn as much as possible about the reality of life in a small Italian town. I’ve eaten a lot of pizza and pasta. I enjoyed several mid-afternoon pausae. I’ve tried gelato and sampled the vino. Just recently though, I’ve learned that while trying to assimilate, I’ve made several errors:

· Jake’s name is actually Jack.

· Italians don’t eat pizza for lunch.

· You only use “Ciao” with people you know.

· Sitting on the wall in the piazza in the evening is an honor reserved for men of Cagli.

· Don’t try to pet Italian farm dogs.

· Ordering a small meal at a nice restaurant is a no-no.

· Tips are acceptable, but only in small amounts.

While I’ve made mistakes, I still feel that the locals notice that I am trying to learn their customs and have been great to help me along the way. I find that asking questions is better than guessing and most people are happy and proud to share their customs with me.

Italian Time

by Adam Holst
DISCOVERING the fantastic hiking in and around Cagli has been a wonderful surprise. Most days, I’ve been up early to head up the mountain. The hike is difficult but the reward is fantastic.

At the end of the trail sits a farm. I am writing my profile story on the man who owns this farm. He and his wife have been inviting me in for coffee and pastry most mornings. At first I declined but then realized this was probably every insulting. “The Italian Way” addressed the importance of the kitchen in Italian culture. “Travel as a Political Act” provided real life examples of how other countries value and allot their time. I knew from these readings that it was an honor to be invited into this home. When they offered again, I accepted.

Nobody was with me the first time I stopped in for breakfast. My Italian is limited to say the least. We sat there trying to converse. We found each other’s ages. We told each other about our families. They showed me pictures. It was great.

After about an hour I realized it was time to go…class was about to start. I was able to communicate that class started soon and I needed to leave. They realized I had to leave, but we still hadn’t had our coffee. I didn’t know what she was saying, but I could tell I was not going to leave just yet. I sat back down and finished the coffee with them. Class would have to wait. I was on Italian time.

It's Just a Matter of Time

by William Jiles
I KNEW THIS DAY would come. Today is Saturday, July 2nd. This is the second day of a free weekend in the Cagli Project, and a haunting thought occupies my mind—with seven more days to go I am wearing my last pair of underwear, the same pair I wore the day before. This unseemly learning experience has taught me that the necessity to do personal laundry is another basic human need that forces one to interact with people of a foreign country—it's just a matter of time.

I had been making gallant efforts to communicate with local Cagli shopkeepers in their language, sometimes getting by with one-word sentences and hand gestures, sometimes completely failing to convey my message. Today, I have extra determination. I must have clean underwear. So I left the apartment on a mission to rectify my potentially embarrassing situation. My first stop is at a laundry and dry cleaner just beyond the piazza. I walked in a greeted a man who appeared to be in his eighties. “Buon giorno,” I exclaimed in my impression of an Italian accent. He responded the same. “Quanto costa lavare?” (How much does it cost for laundry?) I could not understand his response to that question, so I moved on to the next. “Com'e lungo lavare?” (How long laundry?) After listening closely to a lengthy reply, I finally recognized one word that answered my question: “Lunedi.” Waiting until Monday was out of the question at this point, so I decided to try the next best option—purchase some laundry detergent and figure out how to use the washing machine in my apartment that has controls labeled in German.

I walked to the supermarket where I encountered more difficulties communicating. I took a box of what appeared to be powdered detergent from the shelf and approached a woman who was restocking grocery shelves. “Lavare?” Her response was “Si, mano, mano,” repeatedly motioning her hands away from her body. Recognizing the perplexed look on my face, she continued to motion and state “mano, mano.” Finally, a man who was standing nearby approached and said “hand wash” in very good English. “Do you have a machine,” he asked. I said “yes, I have a machine.” The store employee then pointed out the right type detergent I needed. I paid for the product and was on my way.

U-Curve Model

by Brittany Taylor
FOR MY SECOND journal, I will focus on the U-Curve Model.

After living in Italy for a year, I was ecstatic to be returning for a month. I grabbed all of my Italian books and tried to practice. Arriving I fell full swing into the honeymoon stage. I knew Florence. I did not only fall in love with the city but the way of life and the souvenirs I had to purchase. While in the Uffizi I turned to Amanda and said, “I couldn’t put my new leather bag on the floor in the bathroom. We are still in the honey period.” Not knowing that this infatuation period would turn so quickly.

Crisis struck when we arrived in Cagli. Not knowing my way around and the linguistic difference made me feel inept. Some locals speak a Cagliese dialect and I did not understand. I was scared to make mistakes.

After a week of living in Cagli, I am beginning to find my footing. I feel more comfortable here. The locals and I are becoming acquaintances and they do not judge me when I fumble my words.

The adjustment in Cagli is that I am allowing myself to accept the linguistic differences. The people of Cagli can tell that I am trying. The smallest effort goes a long way with the locals.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

At the Roma Termini

By Amanda Brings

AT THE ROMA Termini, I missed two trains to Florence.

For the first missed train, I made the idiotic error of mixing up the Italian words ‘biglietto’ and ‘binario’. The word ‘biglietto’ means ticket. The word ‘binario’ means platform. After paying my train fare to Florence, I looked down at the ticket and saw the number ‘1’ next to the word ‘biglietto’ and thought, “Great! The train leaves from Platform 1.” I lugged my suitcase to Platform 1 with an overconfidence that would later cause me to bang my head against the wall, repeatedly.

Thirty minutes after the train’s scheduled arrival time, and with no train in sight, I stormed over to the Trenitalia desk and demanded to know why the train to Florence never arrived. The polished and courteous gentleman behind the desk looked at my ticket and said, “Your train left from Platform ‘3’; the number ‘1’ simply means you purchased one ticket.” He kindly reissued another train ticket and handed it to me with a sly smile that said, “…and please, don’t be an idiot again.”

And yet, I did miss my train again. To be sure, I asked four different Trenitalia employees what platform I should wait at. All four employees told me a different platform number. In the end, I aimlessly roamed the terminal platforms, boarded the first train to Florence I could find, and profusely apologized to the conductor. He looked at my expired ticket, winked and said, “Don’t worry about it.”

I learned three things from my experience at the Roma Termini. First, never be too cocky or too sure of yourself. I think this is true for life, but particularly true when you are in another country or culture. Next, ‘binario’ and ‘biglietto’ are two very different words. Finally, there are cultural differences between Italians and Americans. I entered the Roma Termini expecting to find very clear and consistent boarding directions. Generally, in the United States, our procedures and rules, including boarding directions, are made obnoxiously evident. We value and expect precision when it comes to our time, and this is because our time is valued as a commodity. Italian culture does not appear to share this same value. Rather, when it comes to time and procedures, there appears to be more flexibility and wiggle room, and there exists more gray areas.

While this cultural misunderstanding of time and procedures may have initially caused my train mishap, it eventually worked to my advantage. Even though I didn’t have the correct train ticket, I was still able to get on the train. In the United States, rules are generally followed to the tee. If you don’t have the correct ticket, you are not getting on. In Italy, the conductor’s wink conveyed the message of: “You tried, close enough, now get on the train.”

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Life-Altering Experience

By Lee Wallace

“Italy is not a Catholic country, but it has a Catholic culture.”
– Dr. Caputo, 2011

, with a few words, is the most clear, concise and confounding statement that I have ever heard. It is also the foundation for beginning to understand the culture of Cagli. Understanding the difference is not as trivial as putting words on a page or declaring a list of bullet points. One must descend below the surface, casting off preconceived notions and cultural blinders. If I can leave Cagli after our short time here and actually begin to understand the depth and breadth of Dr. Caputo’s words, it will have been a life-altering experience. This is a part of what it means to become a global citizen.

Arriving in Cagli, one’s first impressions include Catholicism. There is a Catholic church in every neighborhood, and Catholic symbolism is unmistakable everywhere you gaze. Centuries-old buildings display biblical motifs, people of importance in the history and teachings of the church are honored with statuary in the piazzas and streets named in their honor. What appears like the majority of the town’s residents celebrate every Catholic holiday, regardless of importance, with a pomp and circumstance that is both reverential and joyous. Nearly every home is adorned with at least one crucifix or religious artwork, both inside and out. It would be easy for one to conclude from these clues that Cagli is a city deeply bounded by Catholicism and loyalty to the Holy See.

What I am beginning to learn, however, is that symbolism, respect and deference to Catholicism does not make the town, or the country for that matter, a Catholic town. The fabric of Cagliese culture has been woven with threads of Catholicism intertwined with competing threads. As Americans, we cannot easily grasp the depth of influence and foundational importance to the cultural attitudes, norms and value structures those centuries of Catholic evolution have embedded in the essence of what Cagli is all about.

Is Cagli a Catholic town, or does it merely have a Catholic culture, and what exactly is the difference? In the days that remain, I will continue to seek the knowledge and depth of understanding that might enable me to not only articulate answers, but feel them as well.

Personal Connections

By Tiffany Hoffman

IN MY FIVE AND A HALF YEARS of living in Europe, experiencing cultural conflicts has become a way of life. Whether its trying to order the right pizza or communicating with the landlord over the broken door, these moments are the best forms of teaching and growing. One moment that has occurred recently has been the challenge that most students have had with that lack of technological accessibility, especially from the comfort of our rooms. The ability to be and stay in contact with work, family, or friends from long or short distances at any time of the day, is something that most Americans have grown accustom to having and wanting.

Not having access seems very foreign and peculiar to people. Yet being in a culture that prides itself on the face-to-face connections rather than the technological ones have made me reassess my reliance on such forms. While each form of connection is valuable and useful in its own context, this experience has help me see that sometimes the most important connections made are not through a computer or phone but rather through the day-to-day moments of the people you are with.

Check Please

By Jeff Abel

WHEN SIX OF US decided to spend our first pausa in a restaurant I learned a valuable lesson about time and culture. After being seated and hearing the menu, we decided only to order primi, no salad no pasta. We were there for what was expected to be a short lunch. We understood that Italian lunches are meals that go well beyond that of our lunch breaks at home. We were only ordering a single plate so we thought we could make it in and out in about an hour. After ordering and eating our delicious lunch, we sat waiting for our check. It became clear to us that were going to have to ask for our check. We did not want to offend anyone but our time was limited and we had to get back to class.

We began to feel uncomfortable. There was a sense that we were insulting the server, almost like we were supposed to order caffe or salad. However, we were full and in all honesty simply didn’t have the time to do so. For me personally I am someone that is usually in a hurry for lunch. I get 30 minutes at my job so I have to make it quick. An hour and a half feels like forever. Eventually the check came, we spoke with the server, paid our bill and even made it back to class on time.

Interculture Dissonance

By Kierra S. Irvin

EATING LUNCH AT Caffé d’Italia was a cultural shock. I walked into the café and ordered a chicken sandwich, a bottle of water and a hazelnut ice cream. In good ole American custom I reached for my pouch to pay because usually a counter-order requires payment first. Before I could pay, Jake was gone taking other orders and mingling. After waiting at the counter for five minutes, Jake instructed me to take a seat and he would bring my order to me. Then Jake bought my order to the table and quickly walked off again before I could pay. Finally I found myself chasing after Jake to ask for the bill.

Once I paid the bill, Jake took off again. I couldn’t leave a tip. I chased after him again trying to give him one euro. Nervous and confused I said “Gracie” and quickly left the café. And Jake, calm yet confused seemed to wonder why are you in such a hurry to pay and leave.

In America the server would have come to the table, asked if I was through, and brought the check to me right away. Here in Cagli, it seems as if the owners and servers (usually one in the same) want you to eat, drink and be merry and pay whenever you feel like paying. There’s no rush, no hurry. They seem to think, that for someone to walk out and not pay for a drink or meal, would be absurd. And they trust you will pay for the service you receive. I found it confusing at first, but relaxing after my third go-round.

Comfortable Silence

By Emily Gagel

AFTER SETTLING INTO life in Cagli, I am struck by the ease of forming relationships across generations. In the United States, most young people feel comfortable approaching and speaking with their peers. If one sees a twenty-something fraternizing with someone in their sixties it’s assumed their bond comes from family ties, not friendship. I have rarely developed friendships with people even fifteen years my senior, let alone 50.

In Cagli, my first friend and still closest bond is with my neighbor, Romano; a man in his mid-seventies. At first, and maybe still, I question if his openness is politeness. When I pass him in the piazza we sit and share few stories from our day. There is an ease in our conversations despite the language barrier. In fact, I think the language barrier helps us sit in comfortable silence with one another, pausing at times to share a knowing glance about what we’re observing.

The physical interaction with Romano has also struck me as a cultural dissonance. He easily grabs my hand as we cross busy streets and I notice myself instinctively recoiling. As soon as I pull away my heart drops and I wish I could be more physically open. Growing up in the United States, a constant two-foot barrier surrounds me, even though a concerned touch is surprisingly comforting. My friendship with Romano reveals that a sense of humor and a smile means more than age and language.

Dissonance Issues

By Dan Paholski

MY HOTEL STAY IN FIRENZE is worth sharing. Fortunately, my arrival at the airport, taxi ride to Hotel Vittoria, and check-in all went smoothly. Upon arriving on p. 2 (or the 3rd floor for Americans), I used my key card to enter the room. All was still easy enough up to this point. Now, here appeared a series of small differences, creating a confusing first half-hour and requiring exploration of the various nuances. I was concerned because there didn’t appear to be any power. The room had more light switches than I knew what to do with, but I gave them all a flip anyway to no avail. Finally I pulled a confused maid from the hallway in for help. The key card was apparently multi-purpose and fit in the wall to conserve energy when the room was not in use. Electricity now conquered, I ventured into the bathroom…I’d heard of bidets so although unusual for me its presence did not shock. The shower decided I needed a bath as I tried to figure out the handle and misunderstood that the thin stick-like projection off to the side had holes that sent a jet of cold water over me and into the rest of the bathroom. Minor instances like these combine to create a bewildering experience.

While we know to prepare by bringing adaptors and other advice through travel books or websites, there are just some things you have to discover on your own. From such experiences I learn something about human ingenuity and how similar needs can be met in different ways. Considering environmental issues and energy conservation I think there is value in some of the conservation ideas I have seen here. I think the cultures can at times learn from each other or continue doing what works best for their culture.

Free Beer

By Irina Safaryan

“FREE BEER!” A CHEERING voice exclaims from the next table with a group of American students from Gonzaga who believe that they just scored a round of complimentary beverages. Walking into a bar in Italy, no one asks for a credit card, ID or a way to secure payment. Once you order and take a seat, the drink is served to your table; you can take your time to enjoy an evening socializing and drinking, all without having to pay, just yet.

The time that one has with their drink is also a cultural difference, no rush. Italians can sit for hours enjoying just one glass of wine without having the bartender be frustrated, in America the question “can I get you another?” would have been asked several times. The drinking habits of Italians differ in the fact that being drunk is socially unacceptable whereas many Americans we have no shame in “going big!”

After one is finished with their beverage and is ready to call it good, a check from the bartender comes verbally. Unlike the itemized paper list of consumed items in America, the one in Italy is one that operates on the honor system. The honesty works both ways. I have yet to hear cheers for free drinks from any Italians.

Intercultural Dissonance

By Debra Hunter

DISEMBARKING THE PLANE from the final leg on the journey to Florence, I was focused on quickly claiming my one piece of luggage that I had been forced to check. Knowing that I would be culturally disoriented upon arrival, I wanted to quickly locate my bag and follow my fellow passengers through whatever process occurred next. I found my bag and then sat down to repack some items to make carrying the luggage easier. When I looked up, all of my fellow passengers had left the baggage claim area. One female security woman was patiently watching me and used hand signals to summon me to follow her. As we entered a hallway, she told me to wait there for “customs,” the dreaded word. I waited uncomfortably. I saw a man in a uniform who could have been a customs officer but he took no interest in me. The security woman left to speak with some other passengers just outside the terminal. When nothing further happened, I decided to follow her. She again summoned me to wait off to the side while she spoke with other passengers. The other group appeared to be wealthy, movie star looking passengers, who were involved some sort of miscommunication. It was obvious from the body language and tone of the Italian being spoken that the passengers had been inconvenienced and the airport staff was trying to accommodate them. Suddenly as a private minivan arrived, the security woman turned to me and motioned me to get in the minivan with the other passengers. I hesitated and said in English and motioning with some vigor that I was not with them. It seemed the Italian passengers were perfectly willing to take me along out of courtesy. At that point, the security woman said, “Excuse me (in Italian), turned and abruptly left me on my own. Bewildered, I walked away wondering whether or not I was legally in the country.

My entry problems were not over as I joined a less well-heeled group of German and Italian tourists who waiting next to the taxi sign, none of whom were Americanos. The crowd of people waited impatiently for taxies that arrived slowly one by one. I was stunned at this inefficient process thinking wistfully of the United States where a stream of taxies pulled up within seconds to scoop up arriving passengers. The cue seemed to have some informality and did not operate on first come first served norms. I then wondered if certain passengers called particular taxies. I decided to watch and wait. I tried to hold my space in line. I got squeezed out by an aggressive family. The next group of three men and one woman looked at me disdainfully and clearly were talking about the “American senora.” Then, I was surprised when the next taxi arrived and stood aside and offered it to me. Travel weary, I overcame my usual passive approach with strangers. I stepped up giving the driver a piece of paper with my hotel name. He gave me the traditional wild ride through the Italian traffic. I was thrilled to see the hotel staff expecting me, despite my rather late arrival. From there forward, I abandoned my passive approach with life and decided to survive with whatever communication I could summon.

Molto Belle

By Matt Machia

DISSONANCE, A MINGLING OF discordant sound/Lack of agreement. Every person that has ever been to a culture outside their own can attest to these situations. I have been in Europe for the past two months and I can pull out ten situations I have encountered with “a mingling” that has ended up with an excessive “lack of agreement”.

I was walking home from my second day out in Florence and came across my first Florence native. I asked, “can you show me Nazionale?” They would look at me strangely and walk away. This had happened several times. Perhaps it was because it was late at night, and they were alone. It is possible they thought I was asking them to come to Nazionale with me. Luckily I found my way back by myself after 3 hours of searching.

My next encounter didn’t happen until Cagli. I asked the bartender, “com’e sta” she responded “si”. My next response was “molto bene?” She looked hesitant and said grazie and turned away. Dan at that point looked over at me and asked, “did you just say molto belle?” By the language barrier there was definitely a situation of dissonance, by her response it is most likely she heard me call her beautiful. This had left it in an uncomfortable situation. Later that night I encountered another situation where I scheduled an appointment for my interview for tonight. We exchanged names and I was guaranteed the interview. Tonight the interview did not happen. There could have been the language barrier of when the interview was actually taking place. The language barrier is a strong possibility to the reason the interview never occurred.

I feel culture does play a large part in the communication dissonance. However, I feel that the language barrier plays the largest role in communication dissonance. In my situations my issues have always been from the language barrier.

Clothes Please

By Jennifer Wilkes

THE IDEA OF TRAVELING to another country engaged me. I was excited to create experiences that were contrary to those I was accustomed to. I had heard stories, seen things on television, and received lots of advice about traveling abroad. I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was that I craved to learn more than what living in the United States was teaching me. I wanted to become an international citizen.

Intercultural learning presents various situations that allow us to test who we are as people and how effectively we can engage in intercultural interactions. Oftentimes there is cultural dissonance that forces us to make choices, sometimes against our own cultural practices. I believe that the first occurrence can set the tone for how we may act on those that will follow. However, every instance is usually different in nature. Each time we learn more and more about what is appropriate within another culture. Therefore, cultural dissonance is probably the most effective way to become intercultural because you learn through first-hand experience.

When I first arrived in Cagli, I was directed to the apartment where I would be staying during the program. After my landlord gave me a tour of the apartment, he informed me and the other students who were staying there that we were to give our clothes to him for washing. We were not allowed to hang any wet clothes in the apartment. All of us who stay in the apartment are females, so having a man tell us that someone else was going to wash our personal items was not our idea of a favor. In fact, we became a bit uncomfortable about handing our clothes over and giving someone else complete access to our under garments. I haven’t had my clothes washed yet. Thankfully, I brought enough for each day just in case. I’m still not exactly sure when or if I will have them washed before I leave.

Proceed Cautiously

By Frank McCloy

CULTURAL DISSONANCE starts with assumptions and expectations. Telling friends and family of my trip elicited a superfluity of advice, warnings and recommendations, which when coupled with readings for class and personal research provided me with an ample bank of assumptions and expectations. A few of said suppositions included great food and history, warm and accommodating people and unfortunately, gypsies and pickpockets. Considering that this is my first trip to Europe, the latter really stuck in my head as a cause for concern. My girlfriend and I visited Rome a week prior to Cagli and as we searched for a taxi from the airport to our hotel we encountered someone attempting to take advantage of us. Obviously, this put us on guard and after averting the potential scam we made our way to the hotel. The lady at the front desk greeted us by stating she had been waiting for us since yesterday. Not sure exactly what she was talking about we smiled and asked for our room key. We were then asked to leave our passports at the desk as she walked us to another building where our room was located. We were wary of the situation and proceeded cautiously. Upon entering our room my girlfriend began crying and talking about not feeling safe. I went to back to the front desk to ask about our passports and some sort of clarification. The lady explained that it is customary for hotels to copy passport information and that we had inadvertently booked our stay for a day prior to our actual arrival. Upon further inspection, we certainly did goof up our reservation. While I felt secure about matters, my girlfriend was still a bit shaken.

No Corkscrew

By David de Vries
THE EXPERIENCE OF traveling abroad, in a country unfamiliar in both language and custom, can generate cultural dissonances at almost every turn. Language – or the lack thereof – is the biggest obstacle in most cases. You order a meal with difficulty and then find that what you thought you had ordered, doesn’t in any way resemble what is placed before you “a tavola”. This is disconcerting, but if you’ve an adventurous nature, you can try it and hope for the best. Several of us have noticed that a transaction with our landlords can be frustrating experience, leaving us to wonder if language is the major impediment or if custom is the bigger culprit.

Our first group meal in Cagli was held at Darcy’s apartment. Just drop in a Euro and bring a bottle of wine and enjoy good food and good company. When I realized that there was no corkscrew to be found in the apartment, (that seems confounding considering we are in a country that has the second highest per capita consumption of wine in the world) I decided to run back to my place and pick one up. I saw Mario, Darcy’s landlord in the street, and thought to myself maybe he’s got an extra corkscrew. Surely it can’t hurt to ask. In my best gestural language along with my broken stutter of Italian, I managed to make him understand that I needed a corkscrew for the apartment. Mario’s nods of understanding led me to believe we were both on the same page. I was mistaken. He told me in Italian that he had a corkscrew at home but that there wasn’t one in the apartment. Nothing more. I wanted to say AND…

Now here is where lack of language comes back into play, since I was tempted to ask him if he wouldn’t mind if I borrowed his for a second, if I returned it right away. But I didn’t have the words. A delicate dance of social interaction was clearly not going to happen with Mario, and I figured the best thing to do was smile, say okay and go with plan A and get the corkscrew as originally planned.

But I was perplexed and slightly disgruntled at the turn of events. Had I committed a cultural faux pas? Was Mario just kind of a jerk? A landlord could be a jerk in any country after all. Or was there a cultural divide I wasn’t aware of? I don’t know the playbook here in Italy – the unwritten customs and mores that are so important in high context cultures. It’s hard to say. But I shall think twice before asking for something in the same situation again while I am here in Italy.

Picture Time

By Annagrisel Alvarez
BEING A FOREIGNER in any country is exciting and overwhelming at the same time. I think one of the most hilarious experiences I have had so far in Cagli happened one day when I went for a walk.

I was walking at a fast pace. First, an older man told me something I didn’t understand, and as he was speaking to me I stopped. I said, “va bene?” And he just made a gesture like telling me “calm down, stop.” I think that his problem was the way I was walking and he was telling me to hold and walk slowly.

I kept walking. I saw something that called my attention and I started taking pictures of myself in the town. Some nearby teenagers started laughing. I decided to stop. I thought, “Maybe this is something you don’t do in Europe, I’d rather ask someone to take the picture for me.”

I asked a guy walking my same direction if he could take a picture of me. I just said “fotografia?” He said yes! The next thing I know, he is posing and taking the picture of both of us with his camera. Of course I didn’t say any detail so that he could understand that I wanted a picture of me. But to me, it was amazing how open he was, how even if I would have meant to take a picture with him, he was okay with that and took the time to do it. Personally I would never imagine that a person wants a person with me in a photograph, instead of taking the picture. Second, I think that I wouldn’t have even stopped.

The story finishes when after having taken the picture I gave him my camera and I said, “Io, qui” and I pointed the background. Just then he figured what I meant on the first place and laughed, and laughed. I started laughing too and I said, “Grazie” to what he responded with a big smugly laugh-smile saying, “Sorry, I speak English.”

Thursday, June 30, 2011


By Caitlin Bletscher

BEFORE ARRIVAL to Cagli, I was bombarded with reassuring language comments, to where I felt comfortable coming to Italy with my fluent Spanish, recognizing that “I will pick it right up!”

The past several days, however, have not agreed. Throughout the day, I find myself mixing Italian with Spanish and Spanish with Italian. I try desperately to differentiate the two throughout language class, hoping for a sticking, mindful distinction. Unfortunately, no such thing has occurred.

The most effective assistance has been a slight correction from varying locals throughout Cagli.

Gracias!” “No, no, bella! … grazie

Little by little, I am humbly critiqued in my use of the Italian language. Little by little, I learn to adore the language. Little by little, I progress.

Learning a new language means recognizing your need for help and taking a risk to fumble and seek correction. The most gracious, beautiful people of Cagli – I could not thank them enough for their continuous correction and willingness to accept my slobbery communication.

Dr. Caputo has said on numerous occasions, “Learn a new language, gain a new soul.”

I now understand this phrase.