Friday, April 22, 2011

On the linguistic dilemma (specifically on planes)...

İ have always been amazed by people who can look at someone and immediately know which language (out of their extensive repetoire) to use with that person. At the Grand Bazaar in İstanbul, for example, I'm always impressed with the speed and accuracy with which the men selling their wares attempt to draw customers in by yelling in the tourist's native tongue. Walking through the market you hear Spanish and English and İtalian gallore, salesmen who speak 10 languages but have never been outside of İstanbul. İ once talked to a man from the Bazaar (in Spanish) who spoke with a perfect Spain Spanish accent. İ asked him if he'd studied in Spain or spent some time there. He laughed at me and said no, he'd never left Turkey; he didn't even have a passport!

Now Americans are usually pretty easy to spot. So are İtalians. And Spaniards. İ suppose İ've gotten pretty good at identifying people's nationalities myself over the years, but to pinpoint their language with a 90% accuracy and start speaking it to them is just beyond me.

But me. What do İ look like? What language should these people be speaking to me in? İ apparently cause a bit of a dilemma. First of all, İ tend to travel by myself, so the immediate reaction to listen to what language İ'm speaking to those around me is not helpful. İ look American, okay, but apparently İ also look German. And on rare occasions İ'm told İ look like a light Spaniard. And when İ'm very tan, İ can get the benefit of the doubt to be Turkish or İtalian when İ'm in those respective countries. The confusion is furthered when İ'm traveling/wandering around with foreign friends speaking other languages. İ remember being in the Grand Bazaar in İstanbul with 2 İtalian friends speaking İtalian and then conversing with the salesmen in Turkish. The salesman all of a sudden turns to me and goes "But where are you from????" He was actually annoyed that he couldn't fıgure out the answer himself! İn the Florence market a few weeks ago shopping with some international girlfriends, we actually happened upon a very sweet salesman who immediately spoke to us in İtalian and said that we looked like foreigners, but he could tell we were foreigners that lived here and definitely spoke İtalian. Then he tried to woo us with his pretend Arabic. He told us that all we had to do to speak Arabic was add a "walahaaaa" to the end of everything...

But honestly, I do try and avoid speaking English when İ can. İ prefer conversing in public in İtalian while abroad because it's more secretive. And İ defintely try and speak the local language as best İ can. During my travels in İtaly, Turkey, and Peru, İ always used the local language in my exchanges. Even when the other person tries to speak in English, İ always insist on using the appropriate language to the best of my abilities.

This leads me to the dilemma of airplane linguistics....

Air hostesses are quite good with languages, of course. They all know English along with whatever other relevent languages are necessary for their flight. They are also just as good as the market salesmen in deciding which language they should use with which customer. But what language am I supposed to respond in? For example, on my most recent flight from İtaly to İstanbul, İ flew with Turkish Airlines. The hostess, of course, spoke to me in English. İ responed in Turkish. But she continued to speak to me in English, so İ finally gave in and just responded in English. But on a long Luftansa flight a few months back, the hostesses kept speaking to me in German. Every single time they would speak to me in German, İ would respond with a blank stare (because İ speak absolutely no German whatsoever) and they would just stare back confused. Haha. So what language should İ be speaking on these planes? As someone who tries my best to blend in and be respectful of cultures while İ wander this great big world of ours, İ feel strange about the language dilemma. Should İ just cave and play the American and speak only English? Do İ keep up my attempts at speaking the other language? Do the stewardesses just think İ'm weird for trying to speak to them in my non-native tongue?

Who knew that knowing more than 1 language would create such complications...

Just for fun, I leave you with an image of the city İ am currently visiting. Guess where İ am?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ma Ormai...

So recently I have gotten really into old Italian music. This all started a few weeks ago when a couple of friends and I ended up at this pub on a random Thursday night during their "70s Trash Night" and ended up dancing the night away to horrible Italian hits from the 70s played by a DJ who was not only rocking out, but singing along to every word. Since then, I've been casually looking up old artists and finding funny songs to share with friends.

This whole process of discovering classic Italian music culminated last Saturday night when, instead of going out, my friend and her Italian roommate and I got pizza and sat in their kitchen for hours sharing old Italian hits by classic singers such as Paolo Conte and Luigi Tenco and attempting to decipher the lyrics for my friend who speaks very little Italian.

For anyone that knows anything about modern Italian music, you know that it isn't the best. haha. We're spoiled in the U.S. with our quality of the music industry. Yes, we have plenty of bad music, but in general, I love American music. But Italian music? Italian music, at least in my opinion, for the most part is lackluster. There are, of course, a few exceptions such as "Ti Vorrei Sollevare" by Elisa and "Indietro" by Tiziano Ferro. So when I discovered these Italian artists from the 60s-70s that are actually good, with beautiful voices and interesting lyrics, I was ECSTATIC.

One of my favorite new discoveries is a singer songwriter named Luigi Tenco from the 1960s. He doesn't have much music because he died in 1967 after his song "Ciao Amore Ciao" lost at the San Remo Music Festival. There's some debate as to whether he committed suicide or was actually murdered, but clearly the Italian police at the time completely messed everything up, so we'll never know. His music is interesting and sad. His songwriting approach to love is definitely very steriotypically Italian, but yet complex. And I just love how he sings. "Io Si'" is a hauntingly beautiful melody in which he sings about all of the love he would have given this woman that he is in love with, but unfortunately she has a failure of a boyfriend and now it's too late for him. The way he uses "ma ormai" is just perfect. In this situation, it means something along the lines of "but unfortunately now no..." I leave you with the lyrics and the youtube video of the song. Enjoy!!!

Io sì,
Che t'avrei fatto vivere
Cna vita di sogni
Che con lui non puoi vivere.
Io sì..
Avrei fatto sparire
Dai tuoi occhi la noia
Che lui non sa vedere,
Ma ormai...

Io sì,

T'avrei detto il mio amore
Cercando le parole
Che lui non sa trovare.
Io sì,
T'avrei fatta invidiare
Dalle stesse tue amiche
Che di lui ora ridono...
Ma ormai...

Io sì,

T'avrei fatta arrossire
Dicendoti "ti amo"
Come lui non sa dire.
Io sì,
Da te avrei voluto
Quella tua voce calda
Che a lui fa paura,
Ma ormai...

Io sì,

T'avrei fatto capire
Che il bello della sera
Non è soltanto uscire.
Io sì,
Io t'avrei insegnato
Che si comincia a vivere
Quando lui vuol dormire,
Ma ormai....

Io sì,

Che t'avrei insegnato
Qualcosa dell'amore
Che per lui è peccato.
Io sì,
T'avrei fatto sapere
Quante cose tu hai
Che mi fanno impazzire,
Ma ormai...

What a nice Palazzo you have Duke Federico...

Last week I took a road trip and ventured into the Italian region of Le Marche with some of my fellow North Americans from the master program. One of the guys actually has lived in Italy for a few years and has a natural gas car at his disposal, so we were able to travel 2 hours outside of Bologna to the quaint town of Urbino for relatively cheap.

I've actually wanted to go to Urbino for quite some time, but never managed to make it on my own since it's kind of a pain to get to without a car. Urbino has no train station and is literally in the middle of the countryside. The only way to get there without a car is to take the train to Pesaro (which is still an hour away) and then catch a bus inland. So when we were talking about doing a trip last week on a day we didn't have school, I immediately suggested Urbino.

Urbino is not very well known, but it's actually a very important Renaissance city in Italy. The Duke Federico, who ruled from 1444 to 1482, was a rich patron of the arts and Renaissance man himself. Apparently the prospect of being attacked by him was so frightening that towns around him paid him off in order to avoid conflict with the powerful Duke and his strong Urbino. The Duke then used that money to fund artists and enrich his lovely hilltop town of Urbino. The main site of interest in Urbino is the Duke's Palace (Il Palazzo Ducale) where the Le Marche Art Collection is housed. The palace itself is beautiful, with some of the most incredible wood work I have ever seen, but unfortunately wasn't allowed to photograph. :(

The most famous room in the palace is the "Studiolo" room (little study room) in which a combination of beautiful pieced together wooden panels and an array of paintings of popes and philosophers make the small room into an overwhelming masterpiece. I unfortunately wasn't allowed to take pictures in the room and I'm afraid to post random pictures from the internet here due to possible copyright issues, so I recommend you google "studiolo palazzo ducale" yourselves to take a look. Or you could just go to Urbino and see it for yourself! It's definitely worth the trip.

Other famous facts about the town is that the painter Raphael was born here and there's also a prominent university that specializes in Sociology.

The small town is cute and very typically Italian. It was lovely to walk around in the spring country air and be touristy in a place without many tourists.

Besides the Duke's Palace, the highlight of the day for me was definitely lunch. We ate at a little restaurant suggested to us by the woman that worked at the ticket booth in the palace. I can't even describe how incredible it was. I had one of the best pasta dishes I have ever had in Italy. I got strozzapreti (which literally translates to "strangled preists"...) in a cream sauce with mushrooms, sausage, and TRUFFLE OIL. I will be dreaming about this pasta for weeks to come, seriously.

I leave you with a few sights from Urbino...

For more photos from Urbino (and my photos in general...) check out my new Flickr photo stream!