Sunday, May 08, 2005

Universita per Stranieri

May 6, 2005

Stranieri is an interesting word choice we think. Because literally, it means stranger, (something "strano" is actually "strange" but that's another subject!) but the translation really is "foreigner." I have told you about all the different nationalities in our class. It's incredible to be in a room with 25 people from at least a dozen different countries and most of them able to speak English (if not also French and German). It has made it easier for us to communicate with them and would be impossible at this point to have all but the most rudimentary conversations in Italian. At this point we can all say "what is your name, where are you from, what is your nationality, how old are you etc etc." Many of these people, like us, have had some Italian prior to coming to this school and, like us, where too chicken to take the more advanced classes. The largest number of students is from Australia. There are at least 8 of them. We shared a glass of wine after class with a couple about our age on a tour of the world. Australians, we have found, are great travelers and very interested in the world outside their country. It was fun just to talk with people beside each other for a change. And in English, without struggling for the right verb tense!

The school itself is not as old as we had previously thought. It was established in 1921 and its aim was to heighten people's awareness of the region of Umbria, both throughout Italy and abroad. Classes were held at the University of Perugia and at Palazzo dei Priori until 1927 when it moved into its current home, Palazzo Gallenga, a beautiful 18th century palace that sits near the Etruscan Arch (the Etruscans pre-date the Romans), a very imposing structure. Classes are also held at 3 other smaller palazzi a short distance away from the Palazzo Gallenga and these are where we study. In its former life, this complex of buildings constituted the Psychiatric Hospital, which is kind of appropriate for us! The buildings are old - vecchio - some of the classrooms have wooden benches and, after about an hour we all start squirming! Luckily, there is a break for 15 minutes of each hour so it works out well and the time goes by very quickly. Learning another language is a complete exercise in memorization, which we hope will keep our brains from further fossilizing. Not only do we have to remember all these different words, but all the conjugations of the verbs (regular and irregular - those are the fun ones) and all the many uses of little words like "a", "the" and "is" not to mention "in" and "on"! Much of this is review for me but good to re-confirm what I know and help me use all the little words correctly.

We hope after a while to not sound so much like Tarzan and Jane (me want pizza - me like wine - what is cost - me pay here etc etc). We are working very hard trying to understand without translating everything into English. At Palazzo Gallenga on Thursday afternoons they show a free movie. It's always a foreign film (not necessarily Italian) but regardless of the language, they all have Italian subtitles. So we try to follow along - it's easier to read and understand than it is to just listen, they talk so fast. We have gone to at least 3 of these now and we get the gist of the film and can understand quite a bit but the subtleties go over our heads. Yesterday's film was a 3-hour movie that had won many awards and was the newest we had seen so far. Made in 2003, it told the story of two brothers in the 1960s and all the twists and turns of their young lives. It was touching and tender and a bit too long but I enjoyed it very much. Afterwards we shared a Margherita pizza at what is becoming one of our favorite places.

It had rained while we were in the theatre and the streets were wet and quiet. We walked out to enjoy the view, the twinkling lights of the valley below. A little pink cloud hung over Assisi, which glowed in the night. There is a festival there this weekend and we are hoping to go. We'll keep you posted.

Buona giornata,
Rosemary & Bob

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