Saturday, July 12, 2014


by Abigail Padfield 
Spending the last two weeks in Cagli, I have had the opportunity to see a few of the 14 churches. They are beautiful but appear to be dull from the outside. Their doors are open, welcoming you in to visit. This observation was small culture shock for me because in the towns that I have lived in in America church doors are closed and possibly locked.

Churches are open for everyone. Locals know they are open and that is just the way life is. I had to learn that it was okay to enter the local churches. If you need to pray, you can walk in and put your euro in the offerta and light a candle. If you are a tourist and need a break from the heat, churches are there, doors open and unlocked. Keeping church doors open and unlocked during the day brings a sense of trust into the community that maybe I am missing in my own culture.

Sit Down Please…

by Courtney Dirk 
One of my favorite places in Cagli is in the piazza. I love to watch the residents walk to and fro. I take pleasure sitting down and observing how the cagliese figure out where they need to be, but most of all I enjoy the sense of ease that I feel when I enter the piazza. The lively piazza is made up of many different scenes from Jake scooping gelato, to the older gentleman drinking his wine or the adolescents hanging out in a circle figuring out what to do next.

Generally when I come to the piazza I have no problem sitting down and relaxing while I appreciate the fine crafted pistachio and cream gelato. This time was different; I just came from class and did not want to sit down because I knew that I was not staying long. I saw a few other students talking with some of the Jake's regulars so I approached them with a Ciao and Come sta?

I then proceeded to hear two different Italian men tell me I need to sit or try to give me their chair. I explained that I did not want to sit and standing was just fine for me and then I thanked them for their kind gesture. The two eager gentlemen proceeded to really enforce that I sit, to the point that one of them grabbed a chair and threw it my direction.

A fellow student of mine said to sit down they see you as fragile. I proceeded to listen and not try to piss any more Italians off while they are just trying to relax and take in the afternoon sun.

For these two men they both were under the impression that I need to sit in their presence and were going to go through great strides to make that known. This was new for me, but I could get used to the chivalrous gesture.

The language of grilling

by Matt Clark
Tasked with grilling up a big dinner for the group is daunting but a welcome challenge.

It can be inferred that grilling should be simple across international boundaries. In fact, leading up to the event, I envisioned what kind of modern grill I would be using to create the goodness of the night … steak. I had the preconception of the common charcoal grill … or, even going so far as using a gas grill.

So, imagine my surprise when André walked me through the bocce arena to the place where my masterpieces were to be grilled and unveiled a grill arguably older than myself. It used a wood and coal stack on the back to create coals which were then pulled forward, manually, under the grill grates to create the heat.

I had no idea what I was going to do. But, that’s when André stepped in. There was the language barrier because I couldn’t communicate what my stereotype of the grill was in Italian and André couldn’t explain the operation of the grill to me in English. The only thing I did know was 20 hungry mouths needed to be fed and I had about an hour to get it done.

I initiated conversation with André using non-verbal hand gestures in an attempt to make sure I was operating the grill properly. Of course, there was a slight disconnect initially because my hand gestures weren’t really conveying the message. But, André was a sport and started to speak in Italian and use his hands … very slowly. This allowed me to pick up the meaning of the grill.

After getting it started, it almost seemed as if André and I created some kind of grilling harmony as we both became in sync to know when the flip the steaks and when to take them off.

We went from mismatching language and even hand gestures, to being able to communicate by saying nothing at all.

Perhaps the art of grilling is international.


by Agnes Poliquin 
This past Wednesday, we were able to take a break from classes and attend the much-anticipated Market Day in Cagli. We were informed that there would be deals on everything from backpacks to shoes, fresh fruits, cheeses, and meats, and even bulk underwear! However, Dr. Caputo told us that if we must eat anything from the Market, it should be the fried fish or a fresh pork sandwich.

The Market vendors wind all around Cagli, in corners and side streets. Some of my friends and I were on a hunt to find the fried fish truck. We decided to ask for directions, now that our Italian was better than when we first arrived in Italy, and we knew some “shop talk “ phrases to use as well. Yet, when I asked a clothing vendor “Dove pesca?” thinking “where fish?” the woman nodded and said “ah fruit!” and began to point up the street. I couldn’t figure out what was being lost in translation, so I made some fish motions. Pretending to swim, making fish faces, something very appropriate to be signing in public (just kidding). But, it worked, and the woman said, “ah pesce!” and started to make the ‘shhhh’ sound in the middle of the word. Before she gave us directions to the fish, she made us pronounce “pesce” properly with the long ‘shhh’ sound in the middle, so that in the future we did not confuse it with pesca.

Although this example of mismatch represents a language barrier, through nonverbal communication and friendliness, my friends and I were able to communicate and exchange messages with the Cagliese woman. I think people naturally, no matter what country they are in or what language they speak, revert to hand signs or gestures to communicate with people. This is something we learn from birth and as such, rely on it when our verbal communication fails.

Culturally Lost

by Jessica Silva 
This week we enjoyed a group barbeque and a rousing game of bocce ball. Eager to get our “bocce on”, a group of us met in the piazza to make our way over to the bocciodromo. Giving ourselves a half hour, we thought we had plenty of time to explore new Cagli and make our way over to the stadium. Over an hour later we arrived at the bocciodromo, tired and frazzled.

Little did we know as we embarked on our journey to new Cagli, that we were going to get lost in the small town for over an hour. Confident in our map reading abilities, we set out on the quest ready to explore. As we made our way across the bridge our confidence quickly began to fade. Trying to recall the instructions provided to us, we made our best guess and followed the main road up. As we weaved in and out of neighborhoods we realized we were going in the wrong direction and chose to turn around.

After getting lost a few more times, we came across the local fire station. I ran in and was greeted by several vigili del fuoco – or firefighters. The men were pleased to offer us assistance and helped get us back on track. Unfortunately, as we approached the recommended turn, a sign labeled “bocciodromo” was pointing in the opposite direction. Going against our better judgment we decided to follow the sign; yet another bad decision. Twenty minutes later we realized we were never going to find it and we turned back around. This time we decided to follow our instincts and finally made it to the bocciodromo.

This little adventure not only showcased that my friends and I are directionally challenged, but it also proved we had gotten much better with our communication. We were able to decipher directions from our Italian speaking firefighters and eventually find our way. The mismatch occurred when we came across the directional sign. Culturally, we are used to roundabouts. When you approach a roundabout in the U.S. the sign pointing forward suggests you follow the current road through. However, as we learned last night the arrow pointing forward implied the first exit, not the through street.

Although we were successful in our communication efforts, our American filter hindered our abilities to decipher the signs accurately.

Shoe Shopping on Market Day

by Rita Creel 
On Market Day, I strolled around Cagli searching for sandals for my daughter. Shoe sizes vary from one brand to the next, but I knew I could gauge Kimberly’s fit by trying on the shoes myself. My first challenge arrived in the form of a language disconnect or, more precisely, a measurement mismatch. The sizes weren’t 5, 6, 7, and so forth, but 36, 37, 38, etc. Size 36 seemed about right. Eyeing the styles, I pointed to a tan pair of slip-ons adorned with a flowery bow. I asked the vendor, “Quanto costa?” His reply: “€35.”

I wanted to try on the sandals but recalled that in the US, shoe stores generally require socks and I wasn’t wearing any that day. Of course, this was an assumed similarity on my part, but I didn’t want to risk committing a shopping faux pas!

Glancing around, I noticed a several women trying on shoes without socks. Satisfied, I slipped off my own shoes and was about to slip into a sandal when the attendant took it from me and briskly motioned to an area behind the tables of shoes. He pointed to a mat, where he placed the shoes. I tried them on and stepped in place, trying to gauge the fit and support. In the US, I’d be marching all around the store and outside as well, but not here!

Although I tried to do the “right” thing, I was still a victim of cultural disconnect, or at least of the idiosyncrasies of shoe vendors who operate in outdoor markets. I reflected on the experience later. Asking shoppers to try on shoes behind the tables could be a precaution against theft. Or maybe the vendor simply didn’t want the soles dirtied. Anyway, comfort isn’t a big deal, right? With the culture’s (stereotypical?) emphasis on form over function, what counts is how your feet look in the shoes, not whether you can actually walk in them!

Oil Ordering Mismatch

by Kerel Pinder 
As usual my classmates and I sat down for delicious dinner in Cagli. As we normally do, I ordered a pizza, but after ordering pizza so many times, I wanted to change up the flavors that go along with my pizza. So I made a failed attempt of asking the waitress to bring me some oil. I couldn’t pronounce the Italian word for oil properly. The language barrier was clear again. So I went with the non verbal communication, trying to form the shape of a bottle in hopes that my poor pronunciation of oil and hand gesture of rounding some of my fingers and moving my hand up and down would indicate a bottle. The waitress looked very offended and my classmates just told me to stop. They kept laughing because they thought that she interpreted my hand gesture to mean something else. It wasn’t until we had Italian class that I realized my hand gesture is used in a demanding way in Italy to insist: “Listen to ME”. I felt terrible; no wonder the waitress was so confused by my non verbal sign. In Italian I was basically yelling at her. I hope she understood that, I really just didn’t know how else to order a bottle of oil.


by Rosa Alvarado
Daily routine of attending classes in the morning and lab in the afternoon has become normal. I have learned to survive, accept, and adapt to a culture that was once foreign to me. The serenity and tranquility of Cagli is something I will miss going home.

Today Wednesday is market day at the city, and it is pretty similar to farmers market in Vancouver, Washington. People bring their goods (clothes, shoes, toys, kitchenware, food, plants, etc.), place them on tables all around the piazza. Vendors display their merchandise in the morning until 1:00 p.m.; then leave to either go to another town nearby or simply call it a day.

Pictures have been approved, story passed the final draft, and the website is in process. Bruno created and printed invitations for the main event. As I delivered the invitation (to Friday’s main event) to the owners of Mercerie Intimo, they approached me with an invitation to dinner at their home Thursday evening. Yes, I made friends in Cagli!

Take Your Time

by Stephen Miller
Life is Italy seems to move at a leisurely pace. Time is a very different commodity in Italy than in the United States. While a breakfast, lunch, dinner, or coffee break in the U.S. is immediately met with a bold white bill, meals in Cagli are social engagements that can last for hours without seeing the check. This is much different than the pay-as-you-go, rushed mentality of the United States. I have fondly grown accustomed to this leisurely cultural norm. I have experienced this cultural mismatch many times during my time in Italy. As a general rule of thumb, I believe this difference occurs because the Cagliesi view people being typically good-natured. This is different to the American perspective I see regularly protecting oneself against the corruption of others. The cultural mismatch in public perception leads to the differences in restaurant practice and leisure.

Sit With Me, Please

by Shelley Hepler 
Learning about piazza etiquette has been fun and interesting. The greetings exchanged, how to order a gelato, when to pay, and where to sit, are all new and different from my way of interacting at home. At home when I see friends out and about they often ask me to stop and chat over a cup of coffee or a drink. Everyone understands if you're one your way and can't stay for a visit.

However, I learned that I may have been rude on more than one occasion while passing through the piazza. One dear man, seated in one of the chairs along the wall, motioned to me to come sit with him. I smiled, shook my head, and pointed to my wrist. "Buon giorno!" I waived. Oh, how his face fell as he gestured with both hands with what looked like he was trying to say he couldn't understand what I was doing.

Later, two other men were drinking wine and visiting. One spoke to me in English and the other wanted to me to sit with them and sip a glad. I explained that I was rushing off to meet my friend. They looked at one another, shook their heads, and made the same gesture the man had earlier that day. "Cozzo," I heard. Hmmmmm? What's that? How rude did they think I was? I'm not sure! However, their hands, faces, and quiet swearing said a lot more than their words could have.

I think they'd probably tell me, "Slow down, American lady, slow down!"​

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Shake it Like a Polaroid Picture

Emilio and I outside Caffé D’Italia.
by Victoria Hanson 
Strolling through the piazza slightly after pausa, the clan of students gather around Café D’Italia for their daily gelato.

From afar I notice Emilio surrounded by his friends. After catching each other’s gaze we stride towards one another meeting in the middle.

Ciao! The mutual excitement connecting after our first interaction was evident. Remembering the language barrier, Emilio eagerly hopes this encounter will be different. Lack of verbal understanding seemed frustrating as Emilio searched for an interpreter.

Still rejoiced by our encounter Emilio strived to enhance the experience. I approached an English, Italian speaking man who was eager to join the conversation. We spoke about our backgrounds before Emilio and I took a Polaroid picture. The Polaroid, a token for Emilio, drew an even bigger emotion filled smile, ranging from ear to ear.

Sitting with the American crew, Emilio becomes part of the students here for a limited time. The verbal words had limited meaning, therefore, the gestures provided greater context.

Although cultural dissonant situations can be a tiny obstacle that is usually resolved, the frustration is very real. Communication is a key part in establishing rapport, and building relationships. Without communicating, a person can feel defeated and begin to slip into a hidden shell.

Being reminded of the hardships between intercultural interactions, I appreciate the ability to connect with a person despite obvious obstacles.


by Stephen Miller 
Walking down the narrow cobble streets of Cagli is a calming journey. The apartments soar high above with locals occasionally poking their head out between the wooden shutters. In addition, local men and women or varying ages trot up and down the street on a regular basis.

In my attempt to be polite and
friendly I try to greet many of them with a “buongiorno” or “ciao.” In my attempt to fit into Italian culture, many times their response (if there was one) seemed very disinterested. In attempt to reverse this regular occurrence, I chose to save my “buongiornos” and “ciaos” for Cagliesi who wanted acknowledgment. This seemed to be working well until one day I missed an older gentleman say “buongiorno” to me. In the midst of my own conversation I didn’t hear the welcoming directed my way. This outraged the man. A few steps away I heard the loudest “buongiorno” I will probably ever hear. I quickly realized the miscommunication that had occurred and swong around to greet the demanding gentleman with a smile and hello. As I continued up the street I could make out the unflattering Italian words that were clearly directed my way. I felt out of place and apologetic. The next time I think I am being welcomed I wont hesitate for even a minute before responding.

This got me reflecting about the differences in the American and Italian culture. In the states, it would seem many times impolite to not greet a passerby, even if the greeting isn’t genuine. This just isn’t as expected and valued in Cagli. A greeting should always be genuine, in right timing, and respectful of the individual.

Roman Misunderstandings

by Kerel Pinder 
I had two experiences with cultural dissonance; the first occurred because of a language barrier and the non verbal communications seem to confuse the situation as well. My classmate Steven and I booked two separate single rooms for our hotel room in Rome. However when we arrived to the Hotel we were only given one key. We spoke very little Italian and the Nun at the front desk spoke very little English. This language barrier caused so much confusion; we spent 20 minutes trying to explain that we booked 2 rooms not one. We eventually started to use sign language and so did she. Eventually we interpreted her sign language to mean this one key open the door to both rooms. Like a joining room maybe, so we went upstairs only to see our original thought was correct, we had one room with two beds. We went back down stairs eventually she understood but still could not help, after speaking on the phone for 10minutes with another employee. We eventually got our own rooms with a single bed. A process that would have taken 5 minutes to explain if we spoke Italian or she spoke English, took 45 minutes. I guess it’s time for us to brush up on our Italian a little more.

The other example occurred when I exited the Coliseum. The men dressed up as Gladiators asked if I would take a picture of the family in front of me. Once I was done they asked if I would like a photo and I cheerfully agreed. There was no sign indicating there was a charge for the photos but I assumed that the photos were expected to be done for a small tip. He took my photo and then demanded 20 Euros. I was furious, I could see a euro or two as a tip, but it was taken with my personal camera and you are honestly demanding 20 Euros! I gave him 2 Euros and walked off but I felt caught off guard so much, not because of the language barrier but because of this covert knowledge shared by all vendors to over-charge tourist that don't know any better. He spoke great English he just knew I didn't know the culture and as a tourist expect me to believe all vendors should be rewarded 20 Euros for their efforts. Other vendors doing “special tricks" tried to haggle me throughout the day but I just kept on walking. If I didn't continue to walk around I would have interpreted this misunderstanding as an idiosyncratic behavior because by no means do I think all Italians are this way. I do however think that knowing this part of their gypsy culture would have kept me more aware when visiting the tourist sites, because I was more surprised than anything.


by Rosa Alvarado 
Days is Cagli have been busy and exhausting. The lack of sleep and stress worrying about deadlines on the project is seen on some of us. The piazza seem lonely after the grill festival, everything seems to be normal here. The regular men sit all along the side of the church, some outside of Café D’Italia looking calm and peaceful. Cars driving around the piazza and often you can see close calls when cars make a turn around the piazza, one lady backed into a motorcycle.

People here are concern about their quality of life, they work to live versus us in the U.S. we live to work. Once thing confuses me, Italians try to eat as healthy as possible, yet; I see so many people smoking one cigarette after another. People smoke in public places not considering those around them who inhale that second-hand smoke. Washington State prohibits people to smoke in public places including parks and recreation. Smokers must be twenty-five feet away from any business entrance to avoid second-hand smoke.

One of many things I have learned during my stay in Cagli. People are warm, friendly, and respectful. The streets are clean because the sweeper cleans the city everyday early in the morning. I have tried speaking their language, and they try to speak mine to communicate, but I think sign and body language has come in handy for me. I have come to love and enjoy this city of Cagli, their culture is no longer foreign to me.

I made a trip to Venice on my two-day break. I can say that after transferring from one bus to another (three times) and exchanging trains (once) to make it to and from Venice, I consider it worth my time and effort. I met people who live just a few blocks from where I used to live back in Los Angeles. I met a wonderful family whom I shared dinner. The gondola tour, architecture, history, taxi and public boat transportation was a great experience.

Classes are beginning to come to an end, and my stomach is tight from thinking if I am going to make it or not. About an hour ago, I finally was able to take more pictures for my project. I have spent the last three days worrying, 1) because I was away on my two free days, 2) the store does not open on Sunday, 3) the store opened Monday late afternoon, but one of the ladies was not there. To be continued,

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Vecchio versus Antico

by Abigail Padfield 
I was sitting at Caffe d’italia and Romano was walking around. I asked him to join me and we started talking about the history of Cagli. He told me about how Cagli used to be located on top of the mountain.

As the conversation continued, we started discussing the building of Cagli. He told me stories about how Mussolini spoke on the balcony of the building where Mimi’s Café is located. I asked him about the palazzo and described it as vecchio. He told me that the palazzo was not vecchio but antico. I asked him what the difference between the two words was and he explained that the palazzo was built in 1289 so it is considered antico but he is vecchio. This was a great learning experience on when to use antico and vecchio but it makes me wonder why Ponte Vecchio in Florence is not Ponte Antico.

A Few Choice Fruits and Vegetables

by Shelley Hepler 
When I'm in a new place with a group of people I know, I tend to focus on conversation and familiar things. Knowing this about myself, I have intentionally headed out on my own to explore and experience Cagli. I thought shopping at the Coal grocery store would be a good opportunity to casually observe the culture, as well as tend to the practicalities of getting food. I grabbed my little shopping bag and made sure I had plenty of euros before I left my apartment.

The cool temperature of the store was a welcome relief from the hot afternoon sun. As I looked round, getting my bearings, I was pleased to see a lovely produce section. I squeezed a few luscious red tomatoes. The huge lemons smelled heavenly. And, what about the different kinds of eggplants? After selecting a few choice fruits and vegetables, putting them in the plastic produce bags, a young girl scurried into to get a few zucchinis. She glanced at me a few times, trying not to meet my eyes. She had a funny face.

It wasn't until another shopper came in did I realize that there are plastic gloves one wears when picking out produce. The women slipped on one and selected her fruit. Once done, she peeled it off and threw it in a trash container. Oh, goodness, I felt that I did something dirty. I actually touched fruit and vegetables with my bear hands. That's what we do at home, right? Apparently, when in Italy we don't.

I wandered through the store, making my way to first the butcher section, then to the wines, and on to the rest of the store. As I wondered, a clerk came running up to me saying something I couldn't understand. But, I could understand her waiving a pear at me. Apparently, it had slipped through a hole in my bag and dropped to the floor somewhere in the store isles. Well, that was ok. She was nice about it.

When I finished exploring I made my way to the checkout stand. I placed two plastic bags with produce and my little shopping bag on the conveyer belt. The clerk looked at me and shook her head. It was then that I realized that I didn't weigh and label my produce. Nor, did I use the shopping basket to bring my groceries to the counter. Gosh!

Well, I learned a few things about shopping in Italian grocery stores. Then next time I went, I think I did all of these things correctly. I think....

Acqua Calda? A language disconnect

by Rita Creel 
As I walked into the apartment courtyard, a young man approached me and introduced himself as my landlady’s son, Simone. Patrizia is visiting Firenze for the week, leaving Simone in charge. Simone asked if there were any problems: “Problema o no problema?”

I responded, “No problema; perfetto!” Simone nodded and then asked if I had water calda. “Si, si, acqua calda!” I replied.

Pointing at Courtney’s apartment, Simone queried, “Acqua calda?”

“Non lo so.” I didn’t know. But Simone nodded his head, pointed again at Courtney’s apartment, and said, “Acqua calda!”

In an attempt to clarify, I pointed at myself and said, “Acqua calda, si,” and then at Courtney’s apartment: “Acqua calda, non lo so.”

“Si, Acqua Calda!” Simone declared with certitude. He was on his way out and I didn’t want to stop him. I decided to ask about the water the next time I saw Courtney. If necessary, I’d track down Simone and be more persistent!

An hour later, I ran into Courtney, who told me her hot water is fine now although it wasn’t working for a while. Ah! Perhaps that’s what Simone was trying to tell me—si, acqua calde—yes, Courtney has hot water, now!

Just a Shave and a Haircut

by Matt Clark 
Over the free weekend, I had a need for a haircut but I was a little reluctant about what to do. After pacing to and fro, I decided to walk to a nearby barber and try my luck.

Needless to say, he spoke no English and my Italian remains less than stellar.

But, I was thinking there was an assumed similarity with barbers and using non-verbal communication would be the best way to explain just what I wanted.

Now, in Italy the popular hair style among younger people is the mohawk but that was the last thing I wanted done with my hair.

To break the tension of trying to figure out a haircut, I asked for a shave first. Simple enough right? Actually, yes. I didn’t require anything special just my face shaved, so there was little need for communication.

It was after that when things got interesting.

So Mario and I exchanged several different hand and arm gestures in an attempt to get on the same page regarding my haircut.

After a few minutes, we got it figured out and Mario went to work.

I went into the barber shop not realizing assumed similarities, language and non-verbal communication could be stumbling blocks to getting something as simple as a haircut and shave.

But, we were able to get past the initial cultural dissonance and my haircut and shave turned out better than I expected.

Three Raw Meats.

by Courtney Dirk 
Almost a week into the Cagli project and cultural mismatching is still heavily present. One of my many favorite things to do is try out all the restaurants and enjoy the authentic italian meals. While at La Giochanda, my husband and I wanted to try an antipasto and were brave enough to ask the waiter what he would recommend. My experiences that i have endured with antipastos have all been pretty similar, cheese, meat and either a fruit or vegetable. So I was not to worried. The waiter asked me if we liked carne, I replied yes. He then asked if we would like to try the three meat dish. Not thinking anything of it my husband and I said yes please.

About fifteen minutes later, the waiter comes out with three meats alright, but they were three raw meats. I would have not thought twice about asking if the meat was raw or cooked. I had not pegged Italians as eating raw mean for a dish. I soon learned and attempted to try the raw cow that laid before my husband and I. The waiter came back to our table and asked why we had not consumed the dish and we tried explaining that we do not like raw meat. He finally grasped what we are trying to say with our non verbals and beginner italian. The waiter being the nice gentlemen he came back with another antipasto that we loved. We were very appreciative.

Shopping Excursion

by Rita Creel 
I decided to go shopping in Cagli on one of our free days, figuring I could select some gifts for friends and family while practicing my Italian. Mostly, I found the merchants friendly and helpful. I struggled with my Italian but managed to avoid verbal miscues, so at the level of language, I didn’t discern any disconnects. However, I did encounter disconnects at the cultural level.

First, I noticed that if they’re not busy, shopkeepers often pop next door to visit a neighboring shopkeeper, leaving their own establishment unattended. So when I walked into a bag and suitcase store and found I was alone, I wasn’t too surprised—I’d seen two women chatting a short distance down the street and figured one was probably the shopkeeper. I browsed for a good ten minutes before she walked in and offered assistance. A bit later, in a shop filled with knickknacks, jewelry, and assorted casual clothing (mostly made in India, I think), I noticed a cell phone lying on a table by the door. The shopkeeper walked in, headed to the back of the store, and returned to the front. As she was walking back out the door, I pointed to the phone, thinking a shopper might have left it. “Questo?” I asked, and pointed to the phone and then her—my attempt to ask, “Is this yours?” She laughed and nodded. I attributed these behaviors to a cultural difference that’s perhaps as much a product of the rarity of theft in Cagli, a small town, as it is of the Italian culture. I also wondered whether theft is less common because of the safety net family provides here—families take care of their own, so if someone’s unemployed they have a place to sleep and food to eat. And also, maybe you don’t want to bring shame on the family by stealing.

After these experiences, I was surprised when I felt one shopkeeper’s intense gaze as I browsed kitchen goods, linens, and art in another store. The owner matched my steps, following me and turning as I turned. In the States I might have left the store but here in Cagli, I tried not to take it personally. I didn’t touch anything and even put my hands behind my back—which I hope didn’t send an unintended nonverbal message! Soon, the shopkeeper was lifting various items, describing them to me, and encouraging me to handle them. He was really quite nice and I enjoyed talking with him. Still, he never strayed far from my side. At first, I thought it was an idiosyncratic trait of this shopkeeper but then in class, Dr. Caputo mentioned that Italian merchants used to keep their goods behind glass, so you could look but not touch. Maybe this behavior is a cultural holdover from that time, with the vigilant shopkeeper taking the place of the glass.

Finally, at the little grocery store near the Piazza, two shoppers cut in front of me in line. No one said anything. I thought that maybe I’d done something wrong on one of my prior visits and this was my penance (mi dispiace, mi dispiace). Then, Dr. Caputo showed us the film Europe and Italy, and I took note of the segment illustrating Italians cutting in line. Now I wonder whether the two shoppers were in a hurry and just decided they needed to go first!

In summary, at the level of language, I didn’t experience any disconnects on this excursion; concerning non-verbal communication, I wondered whether putting my hands behind my back sent some sort of signal I was oblivious to (I actually wonder just how many nonverbal signals we students send); I detected cultural differences in each of the shops; and I am still weighing whether or not my experience in the kitchen and linens shop was a cultural disconnect or an example of idiosyncratic behavior.

Caputo, J.S. ( 2002). Chapter 12, Interpersonal Communication in a Global Village: Issues of Culture and Gender. In J.S. Caputo, Hazel, H.C., McMahon, C. & Dannels, D. (2002). Communicating effectively: Linking thought and expression. Dubuque, IW.: Kendal-Hunt Publishing.

The Mistaken Assumption that Google Translate Never Fails.

by Agnes Poliquin
We have been very fortunate to experience Italian dining on our own, but we also have been treated to group dinners and lunches occasionally. Most recently, we traveled as a group to Urbino, Italy and had a group lunch. Naturally, the menu was in Italian and since I forgot to bring my Italian- English dictionary, my friend Jessica and I turned to Google to translate. This is a cultural norm as an American and the mistaken assumption that Google Translate never fails.

However, when Jessica and I looked up the meaning of certain words, they turned out to be a vague description of what the food actually was.

Jessica and I decided to play it “safe” and order for our group lunch what we thought was an American sausage pizza. However, when our pizza arrived, we discovered that the Italian word “wurstel” is a form of a hot dog. Google Translate told us ambiguously that “wurstel” means a sausage. Technically, a hot dog is a form of sausage. We had ordered a hot dog pizza. The taste was less than glorious. This cultural dissonance was not only an example of language barrier, but our instinctual American cultural rules of depending on Google for answers.

For your information, a plain sausage pizza is a pizza con salsiccia.

Context within Cultural Dissonance

by Victoria Hanson
Marrakech Kebab, a new unique Cagli gem, offers nontraditional Italian food.

Usually kebabs consist of lettuce, tomato, onion and a variety of sauces towering over tiny spectacles of lamb, with falafel being a vegetarian option.

I ordered the falafel after pointing with my left index finger and using descriptive language for the addition of fresh vegetables and juicy sauces. Finding similarities between the Italian name, the Spanish name and even the English name proved successful.

Once seated, Claudio, the store owner, approached the table welcoming feedback. Asking if I was a vegetarian I explained I prefer white meat. He grasped what was being said and began clarifying that the meat used is not lamb.

Cluck, cluck, bak, bak and flaps of wavering arms were paired with verbal communication of small, large, holiday and feast. Knowing un po Italian and Claudio having little English knowledge, the verbal mismatch of cultural dissonance was highly evident.

Instead of focusing on animals themselves, Claudio emphasized noises the animal made and where the animal is found. Claudio also used the concept of Thanksgiving to create a larger context.

Slowly putting the pieces together I interpreted that the meat served is not lamb, but turkey.

When entering a new culture and experiencing a new language, being open to looking at the larger context proves beneficial. Zoning in on one path, such as the name of an animal, limits the window of recognition, reducing the possibility for successful communication.

Wurstel is the Worst

by Jessica Silva 
One of my favorite parts about studying abroad in Italy is experiencing the culture through the food. Spaghetti carbonara, homemade gnocchi, gelato, and of course, pizza. It is all delicious. I love food and I love trying new things. At home I am notorious for choosing the most obscure item on the menu; apparently I brought that tradition here with me to Italy.

During our recent trip to Urbino we enjoyed a pizza lunch. Well, not everyone enjoyed their pizza. I had a hard time deciding what to order while we were at lunch so I decided to play it safe, I would order a pizza with spicy sausage, or wurstel.

My friend and I had seen wurstel on several menus throughout Italy. Curious to learn what it was, we decided to rely on our smart phones and a quick Google search. Google responded with spicy sausage. Now I realize spicy sausage is not that exciting or obscure, but with the waitress hovering over me I made my decision. You can’t go wrong with a sausage pizza, right? Wrong.

As all of the pizzas were being delivered to my classmates, I was eager to try mine. To my displeasure the waitress placed a pizza covered in sliced hot dogs in front of me. Hot dogs? I have heard of chips pizza, a pizza topped with French fries (not bad), but I hadn’t heard anything about hot dogs. I can’t stand hot dogs.

Knowing that I was to blame, I forged forward and began shoveling all of the hot dog to the side. I kept telling myself it was just a cheese pizza, but the taste of wurstel was always present. Not wanting to be rude or insensitive, I moved forward as I slowly washed the wurstel down with wine.

Clearly this mismatch was on my part. My order was literally lost in translation. Instead of trying to communicate and ask the waitress what wurstel was, my friend and I relied on the accuracy of technology. I’m sure if we had tried to communicate with our waitress we would have known what we were ordering. Through both verbal and non-verbal communication we could have determined the “sausage” was actually a hot dog.

When traveling internationally I think it is important to remember the human element and interaction. Some of my favorite experiences so far have been interacting with the locals and working through our language barriers. These interactions have helped me grow during my time in Cagli and are paving my path towards becoming a global citizen. My worst experience by far has been the wurstel. Sometimes the easiest route isn’t always the best route. Sometimes it gets you hot dogs.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Adventures quickly BEGIN!!

by Kerel Pinder 
Our first evening in Florence quickly became an unexpected adventure. I ran to the room to try juice up my phone a little just before dinner. The advisors told us to be back in 10 minutes as we have a 20 minute walk to dinner. Shelly, my roommate and I took 11 minutes and to our surprise, everyone was gone. Shocked and terrified the bellman told us our group had already left, but no need to worry, just take a picture of the directions (see below) and you’ll be fine. WHAT??? Well at this point there was no other choice, and that’s where our adventure began. 

So here I was with my new roommate traipsing up and down the city of Florence. We must have asked every local at each stop, to point us in the right direction and let’s just say they were not impressed with our poor use of Italian. This is where we realize culture dissonance at its worst. We didn’t even have our first Italian lesson yet, other than Ciao all we could do was point and show the address below. It was official we were out of our comfort zone and sign language had become the norm. We even tried to jump in a cab, he told us no, we were only a few minutes away, no need. About 15 minutes later we finally arrived with our other classmates, SUCCESS! Shelly and I told the group about our interesting adventures, everyone at the table kept laughing at our misfortune; apparently we made getting lost in the city sound very amusing. Our introductory into Italian culture was fast but well worth it, the laughs we shared bonded our group very quickly, it was the start of a beautiful time Italy! 


by Stephen Miller
My story in Cagli is not one of comparison, yet it is one of culture mingling. Today in a conversation with Elena, a local Cagliese, I was asked about my ethnic heritage. Immediately I mentioned that I was part Russian and part Irish. Elena had to know more. Questions began to come. Are you Catholic? Orthodox? What’s your last name? I didn’t understand the gravity the answers to these questions were to her. Although those ethnicities make up my majority, I don’t closely identify with any of their cultural traditions or practices. Her interest demonstrates a truth about our varying cultures; heritage is much dearer to Elena than it is for me. Although we engaged in dialogue, I didn’t grasp the depth of the conversation because of my different cultural beliefs.


by Agnes Poliquin
I think everyone was both excited and anxious to arrive in Cagli. I was most curious about what to expect of a small town in Italy, especially since we had just toured such a large city like Florence. Grillfest turned out to be happening on our first and second nights in the city. This was both an unfortunate and fortunate event. Unfortunate, in that the event did not end until the wee hours of the morning, and fortunate that we as Americans were able to practice our meager Italian and attend a popular event in the city that drew more than just the Cagliese. I was not prepared for the drastic change in my cultural environment. 

My example of cultural dissonance came rather quickly, as I was one of the few brave enough to attempt to order food at one of the tents at Grillfest without just pointing at something. I tried to pronounce the food item and did so rather poorly; the woman at the cash register shook her head and looked confused. I tried to remedy the situation by signing the number three with my hands as it was listed as the third food item on the menu and saying the name of the food dish again. However, this time the cashier nodded her head and punched in that I ordered three plates of the food dish instead of only one. I proceeded to shake my head and fortunately two younger Italians jumped in and explained to the woman what I was trying to order. I was very grateful they were able to help me, as I don’t know how I would have been able to fix the situation if they hadn’t. Despite my lack of verbal communication, the two younger employees saw my obstacle and offered their aid.

Communication Confusion

by Rita Creel 
On the second night of Grillfest, I wandered over to the beverage tent for un calice di vino rosso. The sign said, “calice – €2,50 bottiglia – €15,00” so I selected a wine and pointed to it, saying, “un calice, per favore.” The vendor pulled out a corkscrew, opened a bottle, and pushed it toward me, setting four plastic cups next to it. My companions had left the piazza, and I planned to stay and listen to the Italian singer who’d just taken the stage. I suppose I could have marched off with the bottiglia and calici and made some new Italian friends. Instead, I tried to explain that I wanted one glass. The vendor nodded and replaced the four plastic glasses with a large goblet. “Mi dispiace—no bottiglia, solo un calice.” I felt guilty he’d opened that bottle just for me. He nodded and smiled, pouring wine into my glass. “Grazie!” I should have left it at that, but I attempted to explain, “Io parlo solo un po’ Italiano,” as if he didn’t know. I held my thumb and forefinger in a “pinch” gesture meant to complement the “un po’.” I guess he thought my gesture meant, “give me a little more,” because he filled the goblet. He charged me €3,00 and off I went with my wine. I stayed at Grillfest as people began to trickle away, but I wasn’t leaving until I finished my very excellent, supersized calice di vino rosso.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Cultural Dissonance

by Shelley Hepler  
As I think of my first few days in Cagli in the context of Cultural Dissonance a few encounters with the locals come to mind. The one that stands out most is a​ chance meeting with a townswoman. As I entered one of the streets, I came upon an older woman with two small children. The little girl was eating a sweet treat as she walked. She was curious about me, so I smiled at her. She didn't return my smile. Rather, she just stared and distracted licked her sucker. It started me, as children are usually open and candid. Realizing that the little brother was also looking at me, I then smiled at him. He was a bit more open. I sensed he wanted to smile back, but his grandmother tugged on his hand. As he stumbled to catch up with her, I noticed that he had a cast on his right arm. I made a small sound and pointed to my own arm showing that I saw his cast. He nodded. However, the grandmother said something to me and made a forceful gesture as she rushed the children along. I stopped and moved to the side of the road, waiting for some distance before I continued on my way. The interaction with the three was so brief, yet it shut me down for several minutes. Had I offended her? Or, was she already upset with something else? Could she have been frustrated with the children for some reason? I had no way to know. I felt strange and I'm still not quite certain what happened.

A Confusing Question

by Abigail Padfield 
Rita and I talked in front of a tent about the days events. A Cagliese gentleman walked up to us and started talking. We started describing our families and I was asked if I was pregnant. This was a confusing question because I did not understand why a stranger would be asking me if I was pregnant.

Rita and I worked together to explain to the gentleman that I was not pregnant. Through broken English and Italian, I learned that my dress was the reason he thought I was pregnant.

I traveled many times before and never was concerned with my clothing portraying a body type. This experience in the piazza of Cagli will definitely stick with me and will be something I take into consideration when packing for my next trip.

Navigating the World between Languages

by Victoria Hanson 
Miscommunication within the same language is inevitable. However, slow simple words, grand emotion filled gestures, and keen faces, all assist in navigating the world between languages.

The first glance, the long welcoming stare started it all. After completing our photo assignment of carefully capturing Emilio’s soft prominent facial expressions through the reflective glass surface of Jake’s gelateria, Emilio strolled to the table.

Ciao! Buono cera! My little knowledge of conversational Italian could translate only so far. Broken French proved to open more channels through my observations of Shelley’s interaction. Despite the promising slow speech and the exaggeration of simple words, I was still verbally unaware of what my new friend was trying to say.

His hopeful heart poured out with wanting desperately to communicate and to understand. Pointing, charades, faces of affirmation, looks of confusion, and warm smiles assisted this verbal obstacle. Through patience, persistence and time, I understood the idea of what was said and realized each action was a piece in the larger puzzle.

Verbal communication, non-verbal communication, and the humanistic factor, acted as the gateways to embracing this cultural experience. The rewarding feeling of breaking the ice and making a personal connection transcends disparities, highlighting similarities.