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Month: May 2017

L’incontro Fortuito

L’incontro Fortuito

On my way home from work recently, I stopped for lunch at a restaurant in a small town called Traver. Traver is in California’s Central Valley, between Tulare and Fresno. Although I pass it almost everyday, I rarely stop in Traver, because there is not much there except for a restaurant and a couple of gas stations. For some reason, I stopped this time, and I’m glad I did.

I placed my order and waited for my food. While waiting, I noticed a man and a woman in their mid-to-late twenties in line to place their order. I sensed they were foreign tourists because of their European fashion and the backpack the man was wearing. When I heard them speak Italian to each other, my suspicion was confirmed.

When my food was ready, I moved to a table near them and asked them if they were Italian. They confirmed they were, and I told them that I speak a little Italian. They were surprised and pleased, and we started talking in their language.

The couple was from Milan and had just spent two days camping in the Sequoia National Forest. They were headed to San Francisco for the weekend, before flying back to Italy. They explained that the people they encountered in America, especially in California, were friendly, which pleased me, having been a tourist in a foreign country. They enjoyed American barbecue, and even had a friend in Milan who recently started barbecuing for his friends. I told them about my time in Italy, and how much I liked the language and culture.  We spent a half an hour talking to each other before I wished them a “buon viaggio” and continued home.

I admit I was nervous speaking with them. Although I have studied Italian for a few years, a sense of anxiety creeps over me when I talk to native speakers. It is one thing to do grammar drills on a computer program. It is a completely different experience to engage a fluent speaker in his native tongue. Making sure the verbs are correctly conjugated and the adjectives match the nouns in gender and number can send my head spinning. I did it, though, even if I may have stumbled over my sentences and sounded like a child at times. It was rewarding experience, one that I will remember for many years.

This was not the first time I have encountered Italians in random places. Seven years ago, I met an Italian couple at a burger stand in Big Sur. These chance encounters add a serendipitous richness and excitement to life. Even though I had never met these people before, I was able to connect with them and establish instant rapport. That is the beauty of learning another language. Italian provided an instant social glue with people who live thousands of miles away. Grazie ai miei amici italiani per la bella esperienza.

If you have had any chance encounters with people who speak a foreign language you are learning, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

Review of Giorni e Nuvole

Review of Giorni e Nuvole

Director: Silvio Soldini

Actors: Margherita Buy and Antonio Albanese

Release Date: September 12, 2007 (Italy), July 11, 2008 (USA)

My Score: 7 out of 10

What happens when you discover the financial foundation of your life is crumbling? Giorni e Nuvole (Days and Clouds) explores this in an authentic and moving way.

When Elsa steps on a piece of the lamp she broke the night before, we know something is wrong. While nursing a hangover from the surprise party her husband Michele threw for her, she learns that Michele has been out of work for months and the couple is quickly running out of money.

Elsa feels betrayed and struggles to adjust to the impact of their dwindling finances on her social status and interests. She must quit the restoration of an ancient fresco to work as a telemarketer by day and a secretary for a shipping company at night. Her struggle to adjust to the new role as provider is exhausting and isolating. Meanwhile, Michele falls into a paralyzing depression as he loses his identity as the breadwinner.

Solidini’s film is about what happens to a family when the material trappings and social status are stripped away. Is there enough underneath to endure?

Giorni e Nuvole shows a different side of Italy, one you won’t find on postcards. It is a noisy and grim place, full of people who struggle with the very real problem of “disoccupazione” (unemployment). It also a place of beauty, where frescos from the fifteenth century can be uncovered in a building in the middle of a gritty city.

Giorni e Nuvole is free for Amazon Prime members. You can also rent it by clicking on my affiliate link here: Giorni e Nuvole.  I’ve included the trailer below. If you end up watching it, let me know what you think in the comments. Buona visione!