Saturday, August 16, 2014

Tank You. Tank You.

A quiet Via Farini
"It helps me to grow as a person 
to be outside of my element; to 
be on my own in a strange 
place meeting people."
~ Ziggy Marley

The temperature was not quite as high yesterday and today, so I spent a good amount of time walking around the city.  Since yesterday was a holiday and today was Saturday, the streets were quiet except in the very center of the city.  I walked down streets I had not traveled before and found a number of beautiful treasures I would have missed had I stayed the normal course.

As I walk, I write in my head.  I do that in the States, too. It helps when I sit to put pen-to-paper or fingers-to-keyboard to have some firm thoughts already formulated.  Of course, a lot of times I forget what I had written up there, and it swirls away like smoke. If I'm lucky, I'll have my mini-notebook with me and can write down an idea or thought that I really like.

I also have practiced Italian as I walk.  I read signs in business windows, talk to owners of small shops, talk to myself (and pray no one thinks I'm pazza and calls the cops).  It helps, though, and I can tell that I'm starting to *think* more in Italian than I was even four or five days ago.

Yesterday evening, I saw Paolo, the second person I met in Bologna, smoking outside of Bar Santo Stefano.

"Ciao, Paolo.  How are you?" (I can use "Ciao with him because we are now friends, and he is not grumpy like the old dog owner was.)

"Good.  Good.  How about you?"

'it goes well," I told him.  He asked me what I had done all day since it was Ferragosto.  "I walked around the city."

"Did you walk around the tangenziale?" I looked at him. The tangenziale is the road that rings the city center. Had I tried to walk it, I'd probably still be out there. It's not a small area to cover. He misunderstood me because the darn Italian prepositions are  crasy.

 "No. No," I answered. "I walked up Via Castiglione and in the centro and Via Farini. Excuse me. I'm still trying with the Italian."

"You are doing good," he told me.  "Your Italian better my English."

"Grazia. Grazia," I laughed. "I'm not so sure."

A tiny via off of the centro
Fast forward:  I walked around again today and tried to visit more streets I didn't know. I walked up one tiny street that looked very similar to the one in the above photo.  There were a number of restaurants and businesses there, but only the money-gram office was open.

As I reached the corner, an older woman stopped me.

"Excuse me, signora." She looked frantic. "Where Gobbledy-gook. Gobbledy-gook?" I had no idea what she said.

"I'm sorry. Can you speak more slowly?"

She repeated her request. "Where is Vest-Airn Shoe-nion?"  Ah! She wanted a Western Union, and I had just passed it.

"Look," I said pointing. "It's about 50 feet down the street. Do you see the sign?" She waved her arms and gobbledy-gooked me. I could not, for the life of me, understand what she was saying.  She didn't move, so I crossed to the other side of her and pointed down the street.  "Do you see the sign? It says 'Money Gram.' Western Union is there."

"Gobbledy-gook. Gobbledy-gook."  Holy crap. I was getting a complex because I had no idea what she said, and she apparently didn't understand me.  Since I was the common denominator, I figured Paolo had been lying to me, and my Italian was a lot worse than his English.  The woman waved her arms a little more. "Gobbledy-gook. Gobbledy-gook."

I sighed.  "Come with me." I motioned for her to follow me.  Now, I have to say that I hesitated a little to walk her down that block because, even though it we were right on the main street, walking to that office was away from the trafficked area. The lady was old, though, shorter than I, and she seemed frantic. Besides, I was carrying my umbrella and could whack her over the head if she tried anything.

"There, do you see it?" I asked her.

"Closed," she said. I thought she was going to cry.

"No. It's open. It's open. See? Even the door is open." I motioned her closer, did a curlicue motion with my arm, and bowed for her to go in. "Tah! Dah!"  I instantly felt like an idiot, but she finally smiled.

"Grazia.  Grazia, signora.  Grazia." She heaved herself onto the store's stoop.  "Gobbledy-gook. Gobbledy-gook." Good God. I really felt stupid since I could not understand her.

"I'm sorry," I finally admitted,  "but I'm learning Italian. I don't understand you."

She shook her head. In battered English, she said, "Vair from you? I Rusa. Spake 'talia little."  She grabbed both of my hands in hers and pumped them.  "Tank you. Tank you."  Thank God. She was a little, old Russian woman trying to speak Italian.

I bowed slightly. "You're welcome. Good afternoon to you."

As I walked back to the main street, I was happy that I had helped the desperate woman and wondered why she was so distraught.

On the other hand, though, I was thrilled that her Italian was worse than her English, and of the two of us, she was the one who was annihilating the language.

1 comment:

  1. Now THAT is funny!! I'm working my way through your posts...I missed a LOT of I'm catching up. :)