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Published: July 28th 2014
Remember on this trip that you are a pilgrim not a tourist. It was on this day I would soon test the meaning of this statement. So in the morning we had a quick mass then bought some meat and cheese for the staff and the pilgrims. It is kind of a pilgrim tradition to share food with other pilgrims on the trip. It is our way of “breaking bread” in both a literal and metaphorical sense. I elected to take an easy morning as we had a long day ahead of us, but first whenever I travel abroad there is always that, “I miss America moment” and that day was today.
As I have said before, when in Europe people tend to avoid going above and beyond in the service industry. Many people I have interacted with in Italy would rather deliver poor service than admit they did not understand me. Now part of me can sympathize, as this way of thinking avoids personal embarrassment...and conveniently avoids doing additional work as well. It is just easier for them to say no than to properly attend to my request. However, as a consumer this is very aggravating. If
they don’t understand you they say it cannot be done. If they do understand you they will tell you the bare minimum and you have to pull further information from them. Considering the amount of holidays and time off in Italy, this inefficiency while working is even harder to accept. When we ate lunch I had one of these experiences.
The waiter did not understand me when I ordered. I could tell he was a little unsure and when he repeated it back to me it did not sound right. He spoke the standard italian with a heavy dialect accent. So I repeated it again and he still brought the wrong dish. I wanted spaghetti alla bolognese (pronounced spa-get-ti / al-la / bo- lon-yay-seh.) Rather than ask me to indicate it to him, he just put in an order of what he thought he heard which was spaghetti al vongole (pronounced spa-get-ti / al / von-go-leh.) Now in dialect, I can see the two words sounding closer than in the standard...I guess...and in fairness, I may have not stressed the y sound in bolognese strong enough for him to hear. However, if he really wasn’t sure he should have asked me instead of just bringing me out calms in spaghetti.
I ended up eating the dish anyway which was actually quite good, but it was not what I ordered. the waiter apologized but then, to make matters worse, starts saying in Italian how his English is so bad that I ordered bolognese and he brought out vongola. That New York Italians think they are Italian, but they are not and that the only people who leave Italy are the people who cannot make any money like his brother in Miami...oh really. Well after I finished eating, I gave him my business card and told him that I could teach him English so he can recognize the difference between bolognese and vongola and since he is still living in Rome then he must have the cash to pay me. O well, truthfully his accent was not exactly the standard Italian you would learn in the classroom so maybe he was a Roman or moved there from the South, which added to the confusion. Either way it was time to camp in the Vatican and I wasn’t about to let the, “we speak/are the true italian” argument get me down. I am proud to be an American but I am also proud of my Italian heritage. It is a concept that Europeans have a very difficult time understanding. (sigh) Vabbe’...Andiamo!
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