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October 09, 2005

Non Sono Morto (I'm Not Dead)

Sunday, October 9, 2005

Perugia, Italy:

Can I just complain for a minute about how much my head hurts? Apparently this is my blog and so I can. Well, my head hurts.

Yes, yet again I've left the blog silent for more than a month and, after receiving a number of complaints (but not that many, just to put to rest any thoughts that I'm trumping up how much anybody out there cares) and feeling the guilt grow and grow, I've finally committed myself to sit still and type for a short while. Partially because I miss writing. Mainly because I miss writing --- or for that matter speaking or reading or thinking --- in English.

For the time being I am going to have to settle for briefly framing where I am and what I am and have been doing since arriving in Italy in late August. I currently rent an apartment in the center of Perugia, the capital of Umbria, a city of approximately 150,000 people which is host to two large universities and is, as a consequence, jam-packed with students, both Italian and foreign. I've been taking Italian lessons at the Universita per Stranieri, one of Italy's best-respected schools for training foreigners in the Italian language and various fields of the culture. When I haven't been in class or studying, I've been out around the city with any number of foreign students from dozens of different countries and backgrounds. Perugia has started to grow a bit small for me after some time here but the other students keep it interesting and so I am considering staying here for the full three months I'm legally allowed to remain. On weekends I've managed to take a number of short excursions farther afield. I've been to Asissi, Elba, Naples (including Capri and Pompeii) and Florence so far. Before leaving the country I hope to make it down to Puglia, Calabria and ultimately Sicily. I'm also hoping to get back to Rome (one of my favorite cities) and get up to Turino and the Piedmontese wine country. I doubt that I can fit all of these spots in, but I aim to manage as much as I can.

As for my head hurting: Whereas I spent most of the last month in a basic beginners' Italian course, lived with two English-speaking roommates (one from London, one from Istanbul), and spent most of my time with a crowd of English, American, Danish, Australian, German and Dutch students, all of whom spoke fluent English (except for a few of the English), my situation has changed since the start of October. With the heaps of cold rain that have started to fall on the city perpetually over the last week, my company has taken a turn for the English-speaking worse. Although it has also taken a turn for the Italian-speaking better, since nothing makes you learn a language faster than simple necessity.

First of all, my class is no longer focused on the "See Giovanni run, run Giovanni run [the Neapolitan mob is on your ass]," sort of exercises that filled part of the classes the month before (which were excellent, nevertheless). The learning curve is steeper and the assumption is that you are in the class because you want to become well-versed in the intricacies of the language, including it's many delightfully vulgar phrases and hand-gestures (or maybe that last part's just me). The professors speak quickly, drill you with exercises, give homework, and constantly chide you to refrain from speaking any language other than Italian outside of the class.

That last part might be hard for the hyper-talkative and close-knit group of 10 or so Spanish university students in my course, but isn't all that tough for me. I now live with a 25-year old Japanese guy (he quit his business job to spend a full year studying Italian here) and a 27-ish French engineer who lives and works in Spain but came here to study for a month or two and see if he might want to eventually live and work in Italy instead. They don't speak much English. I don't speak any French or Japanese. I can, of course, communicate with the French roommate in Spanish, but that doesn't seem to have any real point to it and leaves Japanese roommate Masuru looking extremely confused (because at first he can't understand why the Italian we are speaking is virtually incomprehensible to his ears). So, as a consequence, after 8 hours of class or several hours of studying Italian, I come back to my apartment and continue to have to slog along speaking it and --- as things are turning out more and more --- think in it.

As for the people I spend my free time with, apart from my new roommates, they include my new classmates. In addition to the Spanish, my class includes a girl from Brazil, a girl from the Czech Republic, a girl from Argentina, a guy from Mexico, an Austrian girl, a Belgian guy, a French girl, three Chinese, a Japanese guy, a Brazilian nun and two initiate monks from Romania, who are learning the language before they head off to settle in Asissi (everybody seems to be curious about the monks; my main query, which I hope to one day resolve through an Italian conversation with them, is whether these are monks of (1) the beer-drinking variety or (2) the non beer-drinking variety --- I mean, if you are going to make certain sacrifices and give up certain things to become a monk, you should damned well better be able to hold onto the beer, now shouldn't you?!!). The only other native-English speaker in the class is a girl from Ireland. That said, a few people do speak decent or fluent English: Carlos from Mexico, Victoria from Austria and Florencia from Argentina. But I would prefer to practice my Spanish with two of those three and, moreover, when I'm in a group of more than three people the only common language (if it isn't Spanish) is almost always Italian.

I'd like to write more and have plenty more to write but I don't have the time. If I am going to keep up the blog --- and I'd like to --- I am going to have to settle for shorter posts and post them with less time to think them over, revise them and so on. In fact, start to finish, this post is by far the most English I've written since August and probably adds up to as much as I've done all together in the intervening time.

But how do I like living in Italy? It has its downs (burocrazia!) and its ups (pizzerie!) but I cannot complain about it at all. Except to say that my head hurts.

More later. Really. I think.

Posted by Joshua on October 9, 2005 12:12 PM
Category: Italy: Living in Perugia

Hi Josh, now that you are in Italy, you just know that I have to ask how the espsresso is!

Posted by: espressoman on October 10, 2005 10:52 AM

Well, "espressoman," funny you should ask about that...

Posted by: Josh on October 10, 2005 12:46 PM

Welcome back. Didn't know that complaining about your absence would have helped. Next time, will complain.

Posted by: Frank on October 12, 2005 09:59 PM
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