Saturday, November 1, 2008

He Had Your Grandmother

No, really, he did. And, sadly, that's all that he had. But when Claudio said "he only had your grandmother," what he meant was: he only had his grandmother. The boy's parents had died in Belarus.

Staying with our first foreign language family in Italy provided an interesting communication challenge, as neither Kelly or I speak Italian and English was not a second language to them. Third, maybe, but not second. As you can imagine, the pronoun jumbles (always you/your instead of his/her/he/she) provided endless entertainment.

Your husband is an engineer
. I look at Kelly with eyebrows raised.

You had many women

Philippo likes your friends
. He does?

Classic. My favorite being when Claudio, talking about the poor boy affected by Chernobyl, said: he only had your grandmother and brother. I know, a sad, sad situation. Not funny at all. But, really, my brother too!?!?!

And who was I to correct them? I spit out a nasty concoction of English and Spanish with occasional Italian and Portuguese that must have sounded like gibberish to them. By the end, Kelly and were communicating with each other that way - broken English with grunts and charades. Watching Kelly try to act out "sneaky" for Philippo was brilliant.

The Italian-English dictionary was kept close at hand. At one point, Philippo got a phone call from a friend and I quickly found ragazza (girl/girlfriend) and used it mercilessly. We all laughed. And by "we all" I mean everyone but Philippo. I blame the wine.

Claudio, Tiziana and Philippo are a fantastic family. Delicious food, homemade wine with every meal and enough olives picked that it took two of us to lift the resulting olive oil. Between olive harvestings, they showed us around Velletri, let us help bottle wine (Kelly cried when Claudio poured a bad batch onto the ground) and sang us traditional Italian songs.

They were a great bunch. Claudio used to run a theater troupe, is a farmer and teacher and showed us a book of poetry he wrote poking fun at President Bellisconi. Tiziana is an archaeologist working at a museum in Rome. One day she gave us a guided tour of the museum and I laughed every time she skipped over something saying that it was "too difficult" to try explaining in English. We skipped a lot. Philippo, the 12 year old, acted as translator between us and his parents.

Philippo and I would play football (soccer) on his PlayStation. Because he had only one controller, we would switch off at the half and, inevitably, he would get frustrated with me for not listening to his instructions. I couldn't help it. I just loved shooting goals but, apparently, half way down the field is way too far to shoot from. And over and over he would yell: WHY!?! I would have explained that I just get overly excited and shoot too soon. But I didn't know how to say that in Italian. So I just grunted and yelled GOAL!

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