Thursday, June 15, 2006

...but i like bananas better

Off goes the scanner and here I am to type out my saga yet again. It truly is nice that this job allows me time to write and keep the world up to date. This morning I feel as if I've forgotten something, it's one of those mornings, and in fact (infatti) I forgot to bring my allergy medication to fend off the evil dust of the archive. So we'll see what happens this afternoon when I go down into the land of filing cabinets.

After a successful afternoon in the archives yesterday, finding exactly what I needed to find all along (in previous days, I had failed utterly in comparison to yesterday's results), the Grazia Neri office held a cocktail party opening for the exhibit being shown in the gallery right next to the office. The show was ten photos of ten objects from Hermes, each with a story or poem by an Italian author. If any of you are in Milan and read Italian, you should go. The exhibit is wonderfully poetic and moving. Now, the cocktail party was quite an event. It was one of those fancy catered events with waiters and all, but, unlike all the others I had been at in the past, this one was in Italy. The servers were nowhere as pushy as those in North America and just stood around with their platters waiting to be approached. Once you did approach, they said prego (kind of the equivalent to please, but, hell, it sounds so stupid in english). It seemed curious at first that the servers were not more assertive in approaching people standing around, but, soon, I understood why.

Whenever a platter of food would come out and be put on a table, the Italians would flock to the the platter and clean it off. It was as if it were some sort of attack. I quickly observed that one should never get between an Italian and his food. Platter after platter and the Italians would flock, devour, and retreat. The wine was being downed and the people were having a good time... e cosi (that's how it is). As I ate lunch at the Osteria del Gambero Rosso (yea, the one from Pinocchio), I also noted that the Italians aren't stingy when it comes to food: order wine, bread, whatever, all for the good cause of enjoying life through food. The waiter seemed a bit offended when I ordered nothing to drink (and I was afraid he would be even more offended if I dared to drink water from my water bottle).

Back home (in Porta Romana, I think the quartiere is called), I jumped at the chance to buy milk and yogurt at the GS. I think I am going to have to go back with my camera to document the crazy-wonderful things that the supermarket sells... hazelnut yoghurt, rabbit, carpaccio, pesto... I think the Gavronski family thinks me a bit nuts for enthusiastically jumping on the chance to go to the GS, but it really is one of the best ways into understanding a culture, or at least experiencing more of it. Food, as Naila continually affirms, is such a large part of life, a fundamental block of existence. No food, no life= important.

Over dinner, while Dorota wasn't running back to her room to check on the World Cup game between Poland and Germany and being yelled at by her children to return to the table, my first cultural misstep happened. Now, that sounds monumentally bad, but, not to worry, it was a cultural mishap of the hilarious kind. Dorota asked me if I liked melon since we were having prosciutto e melone (ti piace?), to which I answered: si, mi piace ma amo di piu le banane (yes i like it but i like bananas more). Enter uproarious laughter. Now, to me, this didn't seem like something deserving of laughter. Although I was laughing too, because laughing is contagious, I was horribly confused. Melon (cantolope) is a fruit, so is the banana, hence comparing them shouldn't be funny. But here, melon is usually eaten as an antipasto (before the meal) and is thus considered more of a vegetable (yea, of course... wait! excuse me?). Yes, melon is in a different category than fruit, because you don't eat prosciutto with banana.

That evening Mati and I went out with her friend Davide out to the country to what looked like an abandoned farmhouse where some indy rock kids were playing. Since the mosquitos were more exciting than the high school children at this gig, we decided to go to a swingercafe (god knows what the Italians think it is) called leCoq (all signs point to a swingers' cafe) where we had some cocktails and nice conversation. The evening concluded late after a tour of Milanese sights by car in a completamente vuotato (empty) Milan. All the while, cheesy old Italian pop music played as our soundtrack.

This morning I awoke to no hot water (and thus, no shower). Matilde showed me, upon waking in the house where many things don't work (her words not mine), that you had to turn the hot water on. Okay, should just be a button, right? Turned out to be a switch that when turned correctly are accompanied by blue gas flames. I've been learning little things about how to work things around their home in the past few days: the lights in the kitchen don't work with the switch, the toilet flush handle needs to be held a certain way, and the door. The door can only be opened with a certain number of turns of the key (in the correct of the two locks) and I have still to get it open.

So the adventures continue, even when I don't expect them. Yesterday, I was worried I would have nothing to write this morning, but of course Milan comes through yet again. Hopefully tonight I'll get a good night's rest and I'll have nothing to write tomorrow (although you know I will, because work me fa un po schifo [annoys me a little], perhaps something reflective on the Milanese method of visual appraisal...)

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