Saturday, July 30, 2011


One great thing about being in Italy versus America for me was that everyone could pronounce my name correctly. Both my names: Ariana Crisafulli. For some reason, a lot of people in the states like to pronounce Ariana air-iana, turning my lovely Italian name into a southern drawl. Really it's supposed to be pronounced more like a pirate, arrrr-iana.
But my last name is worse. Americans trip and stumble all over my last name (and I suppose I can't blame them.) Their favorite thing to do is add a t after the s, making it cristafulli. Worse, many times my fellow Americans will think my last name is both my first and last as in Krista Fulli.
Example when interviewing for job:
Interviewer: Hi, what's your last name?
Me: Crisafulli.
Interviewer: Umm I said LAST name but okayyy (begins to look through list for last name Fulli.)
Me: That is my last name. *finishes sentence in head: you d-bag.*
But in Italy I did not have these problems. Italians would see my name and not only know how to pronounce and spell both my first and last, but they would get excited to see an Italian name. Not to mention the fact that they made both of my names sound beautiful and dignified. The syllables of my name were simply lyrics in the song that is the Italian language. Basically I was overjoyed.
Then one day I had a problem with a ticket I bought to Amsterdam. No confirmation showed up in my e-mail so I had to call customer service for the airline I bought it from. As it so happened, it was an Italian airline. No problem, I thought. They speak English.
The man had a thick Italian accent and with it he asked for my last name. Pff this is easy, I thought. He's Italian, he'll get it. Of course I forgot that I'm actually American so no matter how beautifully Italians say my name, I still say it with my native American accent.
He was confused.
"Say it again please," he asked politely. I said it again. He couldn't get it.
"Spell it please," he asked politely again. I tried to spell it but the Italian alphabet is different than the English one. is an i an e or an i? ahhh! this was turning into a nightmare of accents!
After a few minutes of this, I knew what had to be done.
I sucked in air, held it there, and exhaled it with the best imition of Italian accent I could do: CREEZAFOOOOOOLLEE!!! I bellowed (because Italians say everything loudly.) I even gestured with my hand as if conducting the orchestra of the Italian language itself. I knew he couldn't see but I was sure it would help with the accent.
"OHHH!" he shouted with the joy of recognition. "Okay I find you now."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

To Eat or Not to Eat

The other day my mom's friend was over and we and my mom were discussing plans for lunch. I told them that I would have to be back at a certain time so I could go to the gym before work. My mom's friend looks at me and asks, "Oh, do you belong at the gym?"

I thought this was a very strange way to ask if I had a gym membership, so I thought about it. My mind travelled back to my four and a half months in Rome. Months spent eating chocolate croissants and capuccinos with mountains of sugar every morning. Months spent eating pizza and pasta every day. Months spent discovering new and tantalizing foods such as canollis (I know it's not new but I never liked them in the states. The ones in Italy were a whole other story.) There was also something called suppli which was my snack of choice most days. It consists of rice in ragu sauce with a chunk of mozzarella in the middle and then friend in bread crumbs. My mouth waters at the thought of it and my taste buds groan and reach toward Rome, toward Il Delfino where I used to buy them. The point is, I didn't exactly eat healthy while I was abroad. To compound it, I didn't do very much exercising unless you count the innumerous miles I walked going to and from school, pubs, clubs, and of course restaurants where I filled my gullet!

But I don't regret it. While in Rome I watched Eat, Pray, Love which partially takes place in Rome. The protoganist had much the same experience as I did with food and lack of exercise and her advice was to simply buy larger pants! Brilliant I say! This is some advice I actually took when it came time for it, and believe me, the time did come.

Part of the experience of being in Italy is the experience of the food. The food is as rich as their culture and they use it as a centerpiece around which family, business and social life take place. It is not something to be afraid of or picked at for there is absolutely no room for calorie counting in Italy as it clashes harshly with la dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing.) And to that I raised my glass (and my fork) a thousand times in Rome.

But of course it was not without consequence. And so to the question posed to me, I answered: "Yes, I definitely  belong at the gym."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Catharsis In a Hostel Bathroom, or Wherever You Like

Everyone has in them the desire for change. We all have the simple but urgent need to evolve, transcend, morph, and come out on the other side through a carthasis of freedom, freshly reborn and shining new, as if we had just shed our old skin. Each person has their own unique way of going about change. Some people like to move to a new place, some people like to change their appearance, some people like to change their friends, or take up new hobbies. Any way it's done, it all amounts to the same thing, a change of person.

I personally like to go new places AND change my appearance. I like to take a leaping dive off of a cliff and land somewhere I have imagined in my head. However, I always forget that falling leads to panic. Before I settle into someplace new, I like to freak out my friends, family and myself by becoming a little drama queen. This is what happened when I went to Rome. I freaked out and begged to go home. Within about a week and a half, I had finally landed in the place I had imagined in my head. And so goes my life. Leap, panic, land safely with style, and repeat. I have to do this so as to make sure my life does not get stagnant, that my heart is always working because of some new adventure I have in mind.

I also like to change my appearance. I do this spontaneously, whenever I feel I have worn out a certain look til it's ragged and filled with holes. That simply won't do. When I was in Berlin, I decided to cut my hair in a hostel sink. I was sick of my hair and broke, so I did it myself. I'm sure the people who walked in the bathroom and witnessed the self-designed hair were just as amused as I was by their expressions.

Studying abroad, and I'm sure anyone who has done it will say the same, is one of the greatest and most terrifying leaps. Terrifying because you are alone at first in an unknown country, far away from home, and great because it can change your life in so many ways. It's easy to be someone new, to shed your old skin and be reborn. I assume one day I will settle down, but for now I will keep making the leap and seeing where I land.

All I Have is Time

In our last night in Rome, my friends and I went out to dinner in Trastevere. It was a beautiful little place down a tiny side street with twinkling lights and bad service, like all great Italian restaurants. My friend Alex had pasta with rabbit (delicious) and I had a risotto with the entire ocean in it (also freaking delicious.) I learned that when you are given an extra side plate with a dish of seafood, you are supposed to put the shells on said side plate and that shrimp are deceiving little bastards because when you're done taking apart all the undesirables such as the shell, legs, eyeballs, and poop shoot, what's left is only a fraction of the monster they put on your plate.

But I also learned something more extraordinary than that. My friend Alex asked us all what was the most important thing we had taken away from the experience, what was the lesson that had changed us as human beings? We all thought and it occurred to me that the biggest lesson I had learned in Rome is that I don't have to do anything with my life. Just kidding! Okay kind of. What I realized is that when I graduate from college, I don't have to immediately get a career and settle down. I can still travel, meet new people, do exciting things, I don't have to choose what I want to do with the rest of my life right now. In the words of some old wise guy or another, the world is my oyster. In the words of Lady Gaga, I'm a free bitch baby. And so on.

I used to think that as soon as I graduated I would have to get a career and start paying off loans, stay in one place, start a life. But there are so many ways to live a life. I have not seen enough or done enough to start mine yet, and all I have is time.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Roses??? For Me??? Awww

Before going to Rome, I was warned about the gypsies. I was told they will beg, steal, and coerce you into giving them money any way they can. All in all, it turns out gypsies were lazy beggers that sat on their bums all day and rattled tin cans with what little money they made in the day. I never once saw any of them make an attempt to get off said bum and even attempt to pick my pocket.

What they don't warn you about is the Bangladeshis. For lack of a better word, we called them gypsies even though we knew they weren't. Bangladeshis try to sell you crap things instead of begging, which I would say is more commendable if they way they went about it wasn't so obnoxious.

Whilst eating dinner in a restaurant, a Bangladeshi will come up to you, mid mouthful or conversation and try to sell you a rose. Whilst sitting on the Spanish steps, drinking boxed wine and soaking in the Roman sun, a Bangladeshi will try to sell you cheap bracelets, and whilst drinking in the cobbled streets of Rome, a Bangladeshi will attempt to sell you light up bunny ears. You can say no all you want, even go away, no thanks, no grazie, no mi piace, but they will still stand there for ten minutes waving their toys in your face. In the face of this dilemma, my friends and I came up with a new tactic: we would pretend to take their wares.

"ROSES?!" we would exclaim, apparently thrilled. "THANK YOU!!!!" We would take the whole bouquet and thank them profusely for the gift while they stuttered. "twenty euro, twenty euro!" Then we would walk off and they would run after us and we would hand the bouquet or the flashing bunny ears or what have you. They seemed not to bother us after that.

Friday, May 20, 2011

I Didn't Get the Joke...

Living in a country where you don't speak the language is difficult, but not impossible. You pick up a few words here, some grammar there, and your Italian professor meows at you when you get something wrong (that's another story.)

After a while you get used to the anonymity, the idea that no one around you can understand you and you can't understand them. It becomes less and less of a problem. Of course, it still would be easier if I did speak Italian. Often times, Italian culture and language clash very loudly and incoherently together in a cacophony of wild gestures, facial expressions and words (Italians are very expressive.)

One time I was in the grocery store, biding my time in line when the cashier and a customer started arguing. The arguing escalated and became very loud. Then the others in line started yelling too. Everyone was yelling and I was there, doe-eyed and afraid, not knowing what the argument was about or why everyone was getting involved. Should I leave? Was there about to be some sort of riot of which my American sensibilities had no part?

At the height of the argument and my anxiety, the crowd simultaneously broke into hysterical laughter. Something very amusing had just taken place, and I cursed myself for not speaking the language!

Hey Man, Where You Goin'?

Rome's got a great public transportation system. No matter where you want to go, you can get there by train, bus, or tram, or if you're really desperate, taxi. It's all rather cheap (except the taxi) and few Italians ever even pay. No one ever checks.

However, the buses and trams are crowded and smell like body odor, you can't put your feet up on the seats in the train, and taxi drivers will try to rip you off 100% of the time. However, these things are to be expected and are not of major consequence. They will not ruin your day or make it impossible to go about your daily business, quite the opposite in fact when they are saving you miles of walking on cobbled stones.

However, one day I encountered an incident with public transportation that had no precedent. As some friends and I were taking a bus from Villa Borghese (a large park in the center of Rome), the driver stopped the bus, put on his helmet, and took off on his vespa. My friends and I gaped at each other. We gaped at the other passengers and they gaped at us. No one knew what was happening. We waited. Perhaps he ran out to get a beer, or maybe a bite to eat. He'll come back.

We didn't really want to get off the bus because it was a long walk back home and we didn't know when another bus was coming. But it soon became apparent that the bus driver was not coming back. Perhaps he had simply had enough and we had just witnessed an oppressed man shrug a hateful occupation. Either way, we ended up walking miles of cobbledstones to get home. I hope that bus driver is out there somewhere fullfilling his dreams and that our aching feet were worth it.