Friday, September 09, 2005

Conversations in Italian 9.08.05

Last week when I was wandering around the city looking for subjects to paint I noticed a young woman painting a ceramic bowl in a small shop. I stopped in to ask her about what she was doing and she very sweetly stopped and we chatted for a while. It seems she is a law student (I hope I have understood that correctly) but that she really wanted to learn to paint on ceramics and had asked the woman whose studio it was if she could teach her. The woman agreed and now Carla goes to her studio and paints. I loved seeing all the jars of colori she was working with and the big kiln/oven and how they fill it with all the painted pieces and then fire them. The studio/shop was filled with these bowls and plates and pitchers that had been painted with scenes of the Umbrian countryside in miniature, its rolling green hills, sunflower fields and poppies dancing around the edges of these plates in a fanciful way.

She asked me if I would like to get together with her so that she could practice her English and I could have some conversations in Italian. I agreed most eagerly and we arranged to meet on Wednesday at 2:30 in the afternoon and exchanged phone numbers. Yesterday came, the day of our meeting, and around noon it began to rain. A very heavy steady downpour but at almost 2:30 I put on my raincoat, picked up my umbrella an went out to meet Carla in front of the coffee shop (café) minutes away from our apartment.

What a delightful young person she is! Beautiful, dark curly hair and dancing eyes and a warm, inviting smile. We met for around 1-1/2 hours and I have to admit that she spoke too quickly for me to always understand but I tried my best to keep up. At several points I had to just say "NON CAPISCO!" (I don't understand!) and I had a big headache by the end, trying so hard to follow her train of thought! We decided to meet again next week and I decided that I would ask her to keep the conversations a bit more simple and slow moving. Sometimes I'm trying so hard to follow and act as if I understand, that I am really only fooling myself!

We've had more opportunities to talk with Rita and Sergio lately and that has been fun. We took them to dinner last week as our way of saying thanks for all their kindness since we arrived here. They speak a bit of English but mostly the conversation is in Italian and we understand a lot, but a lot of it goes through our ears and over our heads. Yesterday morning they offered to drive me to an art supply store for some paper and we talked together on the way there. It's easier to follow a conversation, we have found, when we ask questions and listen carefully to the responses. That way we at least know what we are talking about, which is half the battle! We have been talking with Sergio also about buying a car and making arrangements to look at one he found for us. When it's clear we are not following what he is saying he does his best in English and little by little we are communicating! I was feeling a bit more confident about my ability to have more than "where is the bank" conversations as Rita and I discussed our children and the differences in growing up when we were girls and the way things are now. We are both around the same age so it's interesting to hear about how things were similar in Italy to my experiences growing up in New York and then raising my children in the U.S. Her sons are younger than my kids - handsome identical twins in their late 20s, and when they are not standing side by side it's hard to tell them apart.

But talking with Carla sort of shot me down again and I realized how much I still have to work! I had a huge headache after that and I'm glad Bob was spearheading the conversations about the car with Sergio because my brain was fried by the end of the day!

After we said Ciao I walked over to the Pasticceria and the rain had stopped but there was a layer of what I thought was fog hanging in different places in the city. I walked over to the viewpoint at Piazza Republica and could barely see beyond the railing! The air was heavy with moisture and it felt really good on my skin, like a cool mist. I practically ran home to get Bob to have him experience this strange weather. He was already heading out the door to come out and we hurried back down into the square. We realized that it was not fog, but low hanging clouds and that we were IN the clouds! Fast moving they were and had already moved out of the streets and into the lower parts of the city, thick and white, they hovered around Santa Giuliana and kept moving. I think the rain stopped during the night but the sky still looks grey this morning, but maybe it will clear and I can go down to the garden to paint. Or perhaps I will have to be content to sit and read or do some practice sketching on my new paper or study my Italian. Tonight we have our lessons with Roberta, our tutor and I'm almost finished with my homework.

We are very excited about Chris and Jessica coming to visit in about one month. After they leave, the next week in fact, our good friends Art and Chris from Phoenix will visit us for a few weeks so we should have a lot of fun. Hopefully we will have our car by then and can show them around Umbria and Tuscany in simple style and moderate comfort, as much as a small foreign car will allow, but on our own time schedules, traveling the back roads and big highways, showing them the cities we have enjoyed and maybe exploring a few new ones together.

And hopefully speaking more Italian!

Rosemary e Berto

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