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Sunday, December 23, 2012

#5: Va bene!

My mother would always tell me that it's always darkest before the dawn. I would pretend to be comforted while thinking that it's always darkest before the lights go out completely. But as things evolved today, things are looking quite bright for my trip to Maierato. 

È una cosa Cutuli preoccupare.  It is a Cutuly thing to worry.
Ma oggi, va bene. Today, it's going well.

Yesterday, I confided my insecurities to my conversation tutor. She said that Calabria has an undeserved reputation for danger. I would not be greeted upon descending the steps of the plane by i banditi with le pistole. In fact, by the time our conversation on the matter ended, I was convinced that I had enough Italian to explain to people in Lamezia why I was there and that as in so many rural communities, like my own in Oregon, people would be thrilled by the story and want to help me.

After class, I went to a cell phone place that rents phones to students. There were two men, typically handsome and distinguished men in their sixties, and I explained my story to them. While the more brusque man answered the office phone, the more gentle man suggested that instead of trying to rent me a phone, we try mine. We called his cell, and it worked. Then he punched in Polma's number. And the next thing I knew, he was handing me the phone. I heard a strange beeping and realized this was the sound of Italian numbers ringing. I flew into a panic as I heard, Pronto...PRONTO.  OMD  (O Mio Dio!), I had to talk. Questa e (no accent since I'm on the keyboard here) Joan Cutuli.  AAAAH Ciao, Joan, came the reply. I began launching into my the back of my mind thinking that these two men would be laughing at my pathetic Italian. I tried to step outside, but the traffic on the narrow street was too loud. 
Back inside, I just went for it.

Before I knew it, I was understanding every word Polma was saying, and she was telling me I had to take a taxi, not a bus from Lamezia...I could stay with them and decided if I wanted to come Thursday or Friday. I said I didn't want to be un problema. No problema!  It was all set. I clicked off the phone, and my eyes filled with tears.

I think that sensing I was an emotional wreck, they began speaking in English.

You are happy, said the gentle man, laughing.
Your Italian is not bad, said the brusque man, gently. Where did you study? he asked.

I taught myself, mostly, I said. 
You did a good job, he complimented me. I could understand every word. And your accent is not bad.

Grazie, grazie, I said. I have had no confidence to speak. But now it will be better with your compliment. 

Good, he said. You should have the confidence.

Which brings me to another lesson I learned. Part of my lack of confidence has been that many students chatter on while I...the Cutuli...wonder if my tenses and pronouns are correct. I confessed my insecurity to Francesca, my tutor.  I got one of those palms-upward EHHH replies, after which she said that the Spanish students who run on think they are talking Italian but are actually speaking a lot of Spanish. After two weeks of improving my listening skills, I hear now that people like Kathleen, who lives upstairs, is using atrocious grammar and tosses in English words when she doesn't know them in Italian. Francesca said that these people never really progress but that people like me and the Japanese students who study and are aware do raise the level of their conversation and comprehension.  Piano, piano, Francesca always says. Slowly Slowly. 

And so, I went to sleep happy last night. And peaceful because just before I turned off the light, I got a text from Kathy saying that she is not eating my cats.

Piano, piano,

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