A friend from back in St. Augustine asked me recently what is my most favorite thing about living in Italy. It took me off guard because I opened my mouth to answer since I felt like I, of course, had lots of answers in my head - but when I actually went to say something, nothing came out. I couldn't really narrow it down. So he then asked me to think of the thing I would miss most if I wasn't living here. I know this is about the same question, but just asked to make me think of the first question a little differently. The only lame answer I could give was..."Um, I really don't know - the language maybe?!"
The language?! The thing that makes me want to scribble uncontrollably all over my textbook? The thing that makes my head swell each day? Or the tape that glues my lips closed when I want to ask a salesperson for the most simple thing and can't think of how to do it? Maybe it's the endless prepositions that keep me up at night. I don't know - but in some way I think this is the right answer for me. It's just not a complete answer. I still don't know what it is about being here that draws me in so much. Why here? Why Italy? I'm not completely sure what it is - and Chris and I talk about this a lot together and still can't figure it out. I'm glad we both feel it though, and it's a wonderful journey just trying to define this question each day.
A little bit of light was shed on this answer last Thursday night when we went with a group of friends up to the neighboring hill town of Fiesole to celebrate our friend, M's birthday at a wonderful Indian restaurant. When we all finally got settled in around 10:30, introductions were complete amongst several new faces, and the meals were ordered...I looked around and counted. Twelve people. Eight countries represented. (Italy, US, Scotland, Ireland, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, Sweden). Seven languages spoken. Yet we all enjoyed telling stories, eating, drinking, and laughing together.
This is one of the reasons I like living here - and partly this does include the language...being around others who are different but have a common thread of language, and put value on learning more about other cultures and other tongues. As an American, I was not required to learn a secondary language in school, and wasn't even offered this as an optional class until 8th grade. In high-school I attended a special performing arts school, so all my elective courses were music related. In college I studied French and was very dedicated to the assimilation - but then it was dropped from the curriculum and so what I knew went by the wayside. I've always had the desire to learn another language fluently and after learning about the art, history, and lifestyle of Italy and finally visiting and loving it - Italian became the language I naturally wanted to learn. And now that we're so invested in learning it and want to make it part of our lives - the language is something that I would miss if I left. Because I'm not fluent yet and I'd feel like I'd lose what I've learned if I stepped away from it now.
Besides this answer is the feeling I can't quite put in to words as well, which was embodied in last week's dinner. The occurrence that happens much more naturally in Europe (partially because of the geographic proximity) - where different cultures, different languages, and different traditions melt together. Even through our classes at school we've probably had over 15 countries represented in the last 2 months. Being here - a fact magnified by living in Florence, which is a town full of stranieri (foreigners) (more so than most cities in Italy) allows me to be more aware on a daily basis of the different types of people around the world.
And so, yes, the language is one of the things I like about living here.