Lingua What?

Trip Start Aug 24, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
M & J Hostel

Flag of Italy  , Lazio,
Monday, August 30, 2010

    Saturday, panic-stricken by trying to speak Italian in busy situations, my tongue was stuck and I was reduced to "unh" and "ahh" for most of the day. I had language block so bad that even English came with difficulty. La famille was supposed to call me, but the arranged time had already passed by, so I began begging in the streets for someone to say "Ciao" to. 
    Roma, prison to those who insist on trying to speak Italian even why they don't know a damn bit of it.

It began with a 30 minute wait in the train ticket line as I snailed towards the desks of important Trenitalia staff. 20 minutes in, two Bangladeshis and their children just walk right in front, paying no attention to these silly squiggly curves we are in. It takes a black Italian saying "Scusi!" loudly, with a hip thrust arm pointing like an arrow and a throbbing eye, to get them to take half a step back. Finally,I reach the tip of the queue and walk forcefully to the open ticket window.

La-la-gla-blah-glah-glah-blah?       Unhhh...
Che-chi-ciao-chu-blah-glah-lah?    I have no idea.
No Italiano.                                 Parlo Inglese? (You speak English?)
Oui                 ( I have no idea why I started speaking French)

    After five minutes of him speaking in English and me trying to regain my command of English, I gave him my Eurail ticket for validation.

Documènt?            What?
Passpòrt?              Oh-scita!

    No passport, no validation, I'll have to come back with it in hand, but I can still book the train. I give him the name of the station in Tuscany that I want to go to and he has never heard of it. Oh-scita! Talk to the information desk, beyond the post office. I wander the interior of Termini Station, but I can't find a post office, so I go back to my hostel worried that I won't have a place to sleep tonight. Completely freaked out, I book two more nights at M&J, buy 10 € worth of internet access, and start spazzing out by email: contacting French farms, researching hostels, emails to family, checking psychiatric websites, dieinternetarrhea.

    I try calling a hostel, asking questions in Italian out of the little "Speak Italian" book I'd borrowed from my sister. But when they answer, I have no idea what they are saying. Mario, the Afro wearing receptionist at M&J, takes the phone out of my hand, shoots off a staccato of Italian, asks me when I want my room for in Modena and, batta-boom-batta-bing, its done.
    Half an hour later, I curl into the switchback ticket line of Termini Station awaiting with mounting fear the surgically precise removal of my vocal cords. Inch by inch, row by row, I make it to the ticket window and a nice Italian woman welcomes me. This time I ask "Parlo Inglese". She crimps her forefinger and thumb together to say just a little and against all odds we reserve trains through a series of charades and pictionary. Using my eye-to-screen coordination, I deftly avoid being sent to Verona because I said "Bologna" instead of Bah-low-nyah
    We finish, she prints my tickets and, flushed with my success, I giver her a big smile and say "Gratzi!" She smile and says "Prego (you're welcome) "! Walking away I think to myself "Not knowing the language is not so bad".

    Later, while eating a pastry by a fountain at twilight, an Italian man approaches me dressed in a white suit jacket, glistens Ciao, and asks me a question. "No Italiano" He asks Americano? and my French speaks out of turn again with "Oui". As we struggle to communicate, he finally cuts to the chase with Zi gay? I ask "Me gay?" He waves his arms around going Gay zona..Gay zona..Zi gay? "Oh, sorry, no gay" With an apologetic smile and a turn of the head, he walks away into the setting sun repeating Gay zona. Standing there by the fountain, I think to myself "Not knowing the language is not so bad". 
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Mark on

You were probably holding a cucumber there at the end...

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