Thursday, February 14, 2013

Adventures with Nonna

Nonna shows up at quarter to eleven.  She greets me and asks how it's going; I address her informally, which is probably a faux pas, but I haven't yet figured out how to navigate the vast world of formality and informality in the Italian language.  She does her cooking and bustles around the house, and by 11:30 we're out the door, on our way to the city center.  Nonna speaks no English, so this is full immersion.  I smile and nod as she insists that I tell her when I don't understand her (foreshadowing, folks).  Oh and by the way, no pictures yet, guys.  Spend 15 minutes with Nonna and you'll understand why that was impossible.

Bologna is a warm city, full of reds and oranges.  You'd think that all those shady portici would make it dark and gloomy, but it ain't so; light filters through the arches, Piazza Maggiore is awash in sun and students, and someone's playing lively jazz nearby.  Our first stop is the Palazzo d'Accursio, which holds the Civic Art Collection, spanning from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.  Room upon room of beautiful paintings, frescoes, and intricately decorated wood.  Nonna is a dedicated tour guide, throwing out a lot of information, so I'm nodding, smiling abundantly, and interspersing that with many a "sì" and "ho capito."  She begins to notice, however, that I'm not understanding everything she's saying.  And then she gets crafty.  From now on, every time I nod, she tells me to repeat what she said in Italian.  I can't do that, can't condense a paragraph of Italian into a sentence on the spot, so things begin to get a little awkward as I stare at the wall deep in futile thought and wait for her to have mercy.  She has a bilingual dictionary, but no mercy.  Next she shows me the Biblioteca Multimediale, which is full of fashionably dressed students and has a partially translucent floor so you can see the ancient Roman ruins underneath.  Quite happy to know about this library, as it's a good place to hang out.  Nonna's tired and she sees me eyeing a copy of the NYT, so she orders me to take it and we chill with some newspapers for a bit.  While we're waiting for the bus to take us home, she interviews me about my life and I do my best to keep up.  At one point, though, she basically says, "If you're not speaking Italian, wtf are you doing here?"

The afternoon has been a confusing mix of encouragement and discouragement.  We get back to the apartment, she wishes me "buon pranzo!" (good lunch!), and she's gone.  Phew.  So the take-away from that story is that I'd be fluent in about 6 days if I spent all my time with Nonna, but I also might die of mental exhaustion/embarrassment.  Worth it?  Non lo so.  I mean, I'm gonna be here for longer than 6 days, either way.

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