Sunday, May 29, 2011

Conversation Starters

For the last three weeks I wore a cast on my right arm because I broke my right elbow. I was soooooo excited when it came off and stayed off on Monday! I never thought I’d miss it. But…

It’s interesting how people react to another person’s injury. Here in Italy it gets you a lot of attention. I had so many opportunities to practice my Italian because it seemed some days that everyone wanted to talk about my injury and ask me questions. Usually they would start with “Poor thing….is it broken?” and then there would be the inevitable questions about how did I do it, how long ago, how long will I have the cast, etc. People who would never talk to me usually would stop me to talk about my health and future welfare.

It was sweet, really, to be sought out by others for awhile. Because people really do move as far away from me as possible in the crosswalk when waiting for a light to change. They really do look at me from the top of my head to my shoes and get those lines between their eyebrows that make them look angry. Maybe their eyes are bad and they have to squint to see me…but I don’t think so. And no, not everyone does this, but it is by far the most common reaction I get from people when I am outside the center of the city. So for three weeks, even though the cast sucked, it allowed people to show an interested in me.

I have discovered something that works as good as a cast. And I don’t have to hurt myself to do it. I may have mentioned that I started babysitting a two year old about a week ago. One day her mom met us at the park and took her home on the bike, while I pushed the empty stroller to their home. Old women who would normally give me the stink eye smiled at me and said good afternoon. They stepped off the sidewalk into the street so that I wouldn’t have to struggle with the stroller. Other women pushing strollers with actual children in them nodded and smiled. It was like being back in Minnesota for five precious blocks. It happened again when I walked her home from school a different day. Crowds parted for us, people smiled and waved. At the park one woman asked me to watch her child while she parked her bike. From what I can understand and observe, here in Italy those with children and those who care for them are like an endangered species. They are to be protected and cared for, maybe not revered, but definitely respected and encouraged to do the best gosh darn job they can with the future leaders of Italy.

Put simply, Italians love family and children. If I am part of this process than I am part of the family too. Even if I am a blonde, blue-eyed American who speaks crappy Italian. Because those kids are going to want to learn American English and who better to teach them than me?

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