...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Experiment in international living

Sarah's dad Hyatt is making lasagne, Sarah's journalling, mellow music is playing, and here I sit nursing a glass of red wine and blogging. Could anything be more idyllic? No. This is exactly where I want to be right now. It's a nice respite before the craziness of backpacking that begins tomorrow. Our schedule is roughly: Genova, Venice, Pisa, Florence, Rome, Bari, Athens, Milan, Paris, somewhere in the south of France, Genova, Barcelona (????), Genova, home. We have five full days in Greece and five full days in Paris, which will be nice. We're hoping to get together with our high school friend Nicole, who's been living in Paris on a Northwestern University study abroad for the year--I'm addicted to her LiveJournal, and I think it would be a blast to hear about her adventures first hand and see what it's like to be an expat in Paris.

Speaking of expatriates named Nicole (I never thought I'd use that transition!), today Sarah's family's friend Nicole came to visit from Torino, where she's been teaching at an international school. She's in her midtwenties and vivacious, friendly and so enthusiastic--it makes me itch to move abroad and do the teaching thing. Listening to her talk, I was trying to figure out the quickest path between me and Argentina (Uruguay in a pinch). The thing is, I might need official teaching credentials. But that lifestyle is so attractive to me, and I can so see myself doing it, maybe after I get my Masters and before I go back for my Ph.D.

Sarah made an interesting observation yesterday: people here frequently assume we're natives, and start talking to us in rapid-fire Italian. And it sucks, because of course we can't really respond besides a noncommital head nod or Non copisciamo italiano (We don't understand Italian), whereas in our respective study-abroad countries of Mexico and Chile, we actually could speak the language but were immediately recognizable as foreigners. I had to fight so hard against the gringa stereotype in Chile, proving that I actually was interested in the culture and the language and that I wanted to engage those things; no one would ever mistake me for a Chilean, at least not in Valparaíso. I remember talking with Julia and Carla about that, about how hard it is to travel in a country where you're assumed to be a native but can't actually speak the language. I wonder if the same thing would happen if I went to the Czech Republic, the country of my family's origin.

The solution? Travel in Argentina and Uruguay, Spanish-speaking countries with heavy European influence. An antique dealer in Uruguay asked me if I was Argentinian; it was one of the best compliments I received.