Ciao from Roma!
I have been in Rome, Italy, for nearly three weeks. Why? I am in a semester-long study abroad program offered to Catholic Studies majors and minors at St. Thomas. I have seen and done many things since I’ve been here, basically checking off the Rome tourism laundry list:
Trevi Fountain ✔
Spanish Steps ✔
Check out the local artists (DaVinci, Raphael, Michaelangelo)✔
Learn a little Italian. ✔
Eat pasta. ✔
Drink wine. ✔
Voraciously consume gelato. ✔✔✔
It’s obvious that I’ve been partially immersed into a new culture with many things to learn, found in a book or in day-to-day life. Our Bernardi Campus, a large residence that’s home to myself and 33 other students, is admittedly American; however, once I leave the gates, I have some cultural figuring to do.
For example, many vendors line popular streets in Rome. They sell everything from roasted chestnuts and gelato to religious articles and Hello Kitty lunchboxes. One cart a friend and I happened upon recently advertised a plethora of colorful hats and scarves. I was interested in one of the latter: a beautiful purple, green and blue scarf for eight euro (1 euro = approximately 1.33 USD).
I walked up, felt how soft the material was and wanted it. One man (there were two) selling from the cart came up and wrapped it around my neck. “Eight euros,” he demanded, unsmiling.
“Pushy,” I thought. But the scarf did feel nice.
“Oh. You look so beautiful!” he exclaimed, still not smiling.
“My euros are what look beautiful to you,” I thought.
“Would you lower the price? Quattro,” I said, setting my price at four euros.
“No, no, no! Otto (eight).”
“No, grazie.” I smiled and walked away.
“SEI! SEI!” His coworker picked up the bargaining, dropping his price to six.
I turned around. “Ah, so they are willing to play,” I thought. I walked to the thinner, pleasant-looking man and said, “Quattro,” with more confidence lining my voice.
“Cinque?” he said, asking for five euros in more of a question than a statement.
I considered for a few seconds and shook my head. I wanted to see if I could get it at four. “No, grazie.” Smiling, I walked away, almost sure I’d leave without the scarf but still happy I had tried.
A dozen steps down the sidewalk, I heard the words explode from him, “QUATTRO! QUATTRO!” I turned and looked him in the eye. “Quattro.” I returned.
His grumpy coworker came over, “No, no! Cinque.”
“No. No. Quattro,” I said with the dangerous voice of an annoyed female who had been promised one thing and given another.
“Okay, quattro,” he relented. The scarf was exchanged for four euro and two of the involved individuals grinned.
This story is one I will probably present to my future offspring and anyone who cares as The Legend of the ‘Sciarpa della Vittoria’ (the Scarf of Victory). It’s a fun little snapshot of me working my way through the Italian obstacle course I’ve started. I still have much more jumping, dodging and learning to do …