socialist & socialized are two different words

Note: this post has been migrated from my former blog “Parliamo dell’Italia – una ragazza fortunata a Perugia.”

I accidentally called an Italian a socialist last week.

It did not go over well.

So every other Wednesday night we have this thing called Tandem where American and Italian students all meet up to practice their language skills. I was happily chattering away with some Italian guy for quite awhile when he started telling me how he liked America better than Italy because our taxes were lower. I told him well, yeah, that’s because Italy’s taxes are socialized. Well, I thought that’s what I told him. What I actually told him is that he was a socialist. To which he stood up and yelled, in English, “I AM NOT A SOCIALIST.” He then proceeded to explain to me the difference between the words socialist and socialized for quite a few minutes.

I don’t know why it is that the words I manage to screw up are the ones that are truly offensive. And furthermore, I don’t know what kind of dictionary I bought from the University of Denver bookstore, but I am seriously considering buying a new one.

What will be my contribution to the the DU Study Abroad programs? A dictionary: what NOT to say in Italy.

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PSA: the word for pigeon = “il colombo”

Note: this post has been migrated from my former blog “Parliamo dell’Italia – una ragazza fortunata a Perugia.”

I have been in Mola for about 2 weeks now and I can’t even begin to explain how much fun I have been having. As most of you all probably know from my facebook, I am extremely happy to be here. I am strangely bright & shiny and it is wonderful. I am not sure what it is about this town, but I am just in love with it. The people are so welcoming and so friendly. And after 3 months in a foreign country I am receiving a whole lot of TLC from our professor here, who we have deemed our “Mamma Italiana” and call ourselves her little ducklings.

I work 4 days a week, 2 here in Mola and 2 much farther away in Bari. In Mola I spend 4 hours in a “literary cafe” aka little book shop / gift store, hanging out, reading, talking, and eating the chocolates that the owners force me to eat. It is a great time for me to just practice Italian, but also to meet people from the town who are all really excited to hear why I am here. The other 2 days a week I work at an after school program. It is actually 2 programs – 1 at an elementary school and 1 at a center for kids with issues. At the elementary school I have been having a lot of fun. The kids are great and really seem to like having me around. They love asking about American things, especially Michael Jackson. I help them with their homework – this is a joke because I have to explain fractions in Italian. Let’s recap: I generally get Ds in Math. So that is always entertaining; I now remember why someone created the eraser. After 2 hours at this school I go about a block to the other center for another 3 1/2 hours. It is much harder and more frustrating here because the kids aren’t as well-behaved or as motivated. It is just hard for me to encourage them to do what they are supposed to be doing (usually homework) when I only know so much Italian. With the loud kids & Italian, on top of the hour and a half one-way commute via train and bus, my brain starts to get pretty tired by the end of the day. However, I just keep reminding myself how much I am learning and that it is a good thing.

Other than “work” we are just hanging out here, attending class twice a week, learning about the culture, this town, and everything that is different about Southern Italy (from the places that I have seen). We spend a lot of time with our professor, one because she is so much fun, but two because it forces us to speak even more Italian.

Sunday morning I woke up at 3 AM to go to Bari with a few of the girls and Angela to attend the Festa di San Nicola aka Catholic Mass. We were only actually in the church for about 15 minutes because it was so crowded. Before this we proceeded to eat fresh, hot donuts, melted hershey bars (hot chocolate), and fried polenta at 4 o’clock in the morning. There were a ton of people everywhere, fireworks, and Christmas lights … it was just a really cool experience. I also discovered that my brain can speak and think in Italian before the sun has even risen. So that was exciting.

I am going to leave you all with a story that I hope you enjoy… The second day that Shelley and I were in Bologna we looked up the word for pigeon. There are SO many pigeons here so we figured if we (I) were (was) complaining about them all the time than we should at least know the word. So for the past 3 months we have been running around Italy, yelling this word for pigeon extremely loudly, teaching it to the rest of our group members. There are literally pigeons everywhere here so I cannot even tell you how many times a day I would yell out this word in public. Well, the other night at dinner I was relaying a story about how someone had thrown a potato chip on the ground in the middle of the main piazza here in Mola while we were eating lunch. Of course like 29,000 pigeons attacked us and I ran home screaming. Anyway. As I am telling about the pigeons, Angela leans in and lowers her voice, “Ragazzi,” she tells us, “that is NOT the word for pigeon. That is the word for a ‘female intimate part.'” AAAAHHHH. So good, hi Italy, Sarah DeNapoli is here, and yes, she is selling herself to you through one simple word.

I need a better dictionary.