Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Becoming Stefano

Last night while watching La Pupa e il Secchione (the Italian version of Beauty and the Geek, oh the pinnacle of American culture) with Chiara, I was astounded by the stupidity of the pupe (beauties, if you will) I scoffed and shook my fist formed in an inverted pinch of salt. I seem to have picked up certain gestures, as Chiara noted (Oh you learned that?). There are modes of expression in the Italian language that have nothing to do with words at all. The praying hands that motion downwards and up again in exasperation/want/desire. The side of the right hand that slaps up to the open left hand in sign of getting rid of something. Brushing the chin with the outside of your hand to tell someone off or to rudely say you don’t care for or need something. I had noted many of these hand motions this summer while in Milan but now, surrounded by Italian, the hand motions are starting to work their way into my repertory of body language.

I am starting to get used to it all, this whole Italian way of doing things: breaking for lunch for three hours, living from one class to the next and not planning ahead too much, putting off to tomorrow what really doesn’t need to be done today. It has been the Italian university system that irked me the most. I expected a nice clean beginning but instead I got a long and retarded start. In fact, classes are still starting and stopping and changing schedules and classrooms. I was speaking to my language teacher last week in my final exam (an informal meeting) and I reflected on the Italian way of life and the university system as being more chaotic and unpredictable yet more natural, more, let’s say, organic. After all this I will certainly be more able to deal with stress and unpredictability than ever before

I’ve started reading for classes, making notes and trying to fathom how on earth I will get through the volume of material ahead of me. I have to keep reminding myself that I have 2.5 months to do all this reading and that I am indeed no longer at Harvard. But still I want to be the good student, the dedicated academic who reads all the material and goes into the final exam knowing that nothing can go wrong. And maybe there I am wrong to foresee such necessity of preparation. Perhaps when I fully adopt the Italian version of my name that the woman at the drycleaners misheard today, maybe then I’ll take it everything a little more lightly and start to exemplify the chaos. Perhaps I’ll just put on an act for a few months… become Stefano and then go back to being Stefan without having to overturn my world.

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