Saturday, July 13, 2013

The good fortune to advance

by Agneta Murnan

My weeks in Cagli, Italy, are approaching an end, but my work and time in Italy will likely continue for a longer period. I’ve had the opportunity to reside in Italy for approximately two years, but this chance to break from work and focus intently on the intercultural dynamics has been wonderful. I can reflect on my range of experiences with parts of Italian culture in these years, but I can take the academics and experiences of the Gonzaga University Cagli Project and directly apply them in my Italian journeys ahead.

While I upped my Italian language skills, as an example, our study of culture has been much broader than applications within this single country. Organizations and institutions maintain and develop cultures, and I see tremendous beauty and strength in the diversity of cultures found in the United States. Even if I was unable to travel abroad again in my life, by interacting with different people, anywhere, my intercultural journey will continue.

(Cagli, Italy / Photo by Agneta E. Murnan)

Be Present

By Megan Powers 

As my departure from Cagli looms, I’m filled with mixed emotions. 

In one way, I have very little interest in returning home to my life in the U.S. As many Cagli students have mentioned in the past, and those who take this journey will continue to say, I truly am enjoying the slow life of Cagli. 

There is a dichotomy between the slow-paced life here, and forced “pauza” (afternoon 3-4 hour break), and the amount of course-work we are expected to complete while here. But having the chance to be totally immersed in school, while being immersed in a foreign culture without any other concerns? Brilliant. 

Getting to the top (we're close here) was SO tough, but worth it.
A metaphor for this adventure in Cagli!
I don’t have unrealistic expectations of the return home, but realistic ones, which is why this way of living is so appealing. 

Alas, as I get ready for re-entry back into my own daily life, I find myself thinking of that all too often. I need to be in the NOW and continue to enjoy every beautiful moment in this community of Cagli. 

For the next 48-hours I will remind myself to be present.

Passeggiata Pals

One evening I went for a walk in search of some Italians, so that I could practice conversing with them in their language. I took my camera and the Rick Steves’ mini dictionary with me. I was lucky to come across three older women – Peppina, Rosa, and Gina who were sitting on a front porch.

I approached them and struck up a conversation. We talked about many things -  all in short sentences and some that consisted of only one word. I thumbed through the dictionary when I got stuck on how to say something, and sometimes the dictionary didn’t contain the word I needed, so I improvised. It’s amazing how knowing a few words and using new ones can carry a conversation.

Peppina, Rosa and Gina pose with me before our walk.
These three women were a delight and laughed when I would say ‘un momento’ as I searched for the Italian way to say something.  During our conversation, various neighbors passed, including Peppina’s grandson Miguel.   The neighbors would chime in as we talked. I was enjoying the ability to practice my Italian in such a great setting. It started to get dark and so it was Passeggiata time – slow stroll.  I enjoyed strolling with my three new pals as we walked in Cagli.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Time is of the Essence

By Jamie Perkins
As a full-time working mom, and part-time grad student, I feel my time is scheduled to the minute. My days start early, end late, and are packed in between. Coming to Italy has allowed me to take a step back and realize that the concept of time varies greatly between different cultures.

One of the many things I have come to appreciate about the Italian lifestyle is its relationship with time. How often have we heard the terms, “time is money”, “don’t waste time”, “budget your time”? These sayings are relatively unheard of in Italy as there is no such thing as wasting time. In fact, there is very little sense of urgency at all in Italian culture. The Cagliese have a healthy appreciation of time; one in which is savored, not stressed.

This took a little getting use to.

I set up an interview with one of the chefs in Cagli for my story. He told me to come by the restaurant at 7:00 pm on a particular evening with the translator so I could talk to him before dinner service. I planned to meet the translator in the piazza a few minutes before 7:00 so we could walk over to the restaurant together. I started to get a little nervous when 7:00 rolled around and she hadn’t arrived.

I wanted to make a good impression on the chef, and show him I was serious about my project. I also knew he needed to open his restaurant to customers after our interview, and I wanted to make sure he knew I valued his time. So imagine my surprise with the translator arrived late without a care in the world. All was fine, and even though we were late, the chef didn’t seem to mind.

As I plan to return home, I hope I am able to bring the “domani” culture back with me. I know I will be returning to deadlines, time-management, and multi-tasking, but hopefully I will have a better sense of balance as I think about how I spend my time.

Caio Cagli

By Sam Starbuck

I find myself having very mixed feeling about finishing the Gonzaga in Cagli Project. On the one hand, class is over, grades are coming and I'm headed home in a few weeks. On the other, the adventure of living and studying in a new place in the world is over, the food is over, the hanging out on the piazza is over, and my new friends and I are parting ways, seeing each other for perhaps the last time. On the third hand, the cultural mismatches will be over. The slight embarrassment each time I am confused by a word spoken in Italian, comparing my behavior to those around me hoping not to stand out too much will be over, and being way outside my comfort zone.

I have learned so much, its a little hard to process at the moment. I took an intercultural communication class at a community and I thought I had learned so much, yet it pales in comparison to the sheer volume of new experiences I have had since coming to Cagli two weeks ago. I am planning on taking trips around the world in the future and applying as much of my new knowledge as I possible can along the way and adding new ideas and experiences to the communication models I have studied and practiced while I have been in Cagli.

There are things I wish I had done more, for instance, taking more pictures of the people of Cagli and of people in the program. Spending more time in conversation using only Italian words and phrases. And engaging in more of the hidden pleasures of gelato. 

Going Outside to Look Inside

By: Kristen Evans

I traveled some distance across the world to experience another culture when in truth I traveled some distance across the world to experience myself. During this immersion, the many sides of me have made appearances, even some sides of myself I am aware of less frequently. I’ve been a force of rational and emotional, extrovert and introvert. I hope mostly I’ve been a vessel poured into and out of by the company I’ve kept. I’ve met people who’ve made me think, “am I like that?" While many will say don’t compare yourself to others, and I do agree, I believe there is value in questioning yourself based on engagement with others. I’ve asked myself, “am I a great storyteller?” and “do I tell people how wonderful they are?" If not….why not? Communication starts with self. Do I engage people on the best interpersonal level? Absolutely not. Number one takeaway….every person is a culture, every person has a story; each day I should tell a story, give a compliment, and hear someone's story. That’s living communication.

When Missing is What's Not


By Rachel Phelps
I’ve been away from home for sixteen days.  This is the longest amount of time my husband and I have been apart since we’ve known each other—well, since at least our real friendship began (I’ve known him since grade school!). 

Yesterday, one of the locals told me that I better hurry up and get home because “Every husband loves his wife, but sometimes they need a change.”  He was joking (I think, I hope), and I quipped back with something to the effect of “yes, but not if he’s married to me!”  

However, reflecting on this humorous exchange got me thinking about how nice it is to miss things.  Missing something shows us what we value.  Yes, many Americans miss their large cups of coffee when they come to Europe, but they may also miss feelings of acceptance they can only find at home.  In other words, this experience can make us uncomfortable with what we don’t have, or we can embrace the opportunity to evaluate what we appreciate, love, desire—what we are thankful for and blessed by.
Part of our time here has included studying different models of the acculturation process and how these phases relate to our basic human needs (ala Maslow’s Hierarchy).  My time in Italy, and in past travels, has shown me that travel simultaneously reveals, challenges, and changes what I think I need.  

When we get caught up in what’s missing, we often fail to realize what’s not. I am blessed to have a wonderful husband, and I am blessed to want to be back with him.  I could let this emotion negatively affect my attitude as my time in Italy winds down, but instead I have found a way to enjoy my time here and my longing for home and husband at the same time.

An Update on Crêpes

By Jamie Perkins
Thanks to a fluent Italian-speaking new friend, I am able to understand a little more about the process of buying and selling crêpes in Calgi (referenced in my post on 7/3/13). The long and short of it is this: It’s at the discretion of the shop owner.

Apparently, at this shop, crêpes are only sold in the morning, and in the evening when it’s cool outside (the weather has actually been very mild for this time of year, but that’s beside the point). The owner believes if she sells warm crêpes in the middle of the day, her customers won’t enjoy them. However, I’ve really come to understand that the owner just doesn’t want to turn on the hot crêpes maker when the weather is warm. So that’s that.

To recap: Crêpes in the morning or at night, not during the day.

I have found that this level of understanding and acceptance falls in the middle of the intercultural learning continuum, but I have yet reach the point of appreciating the reasoning behind the “rule”. I was finally able to buy a crepe, and I have to say the wait made it taste all that much sweeter, but I have to wonder if the shop owner sells gelato in the winter????

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Kindred Spirit

By Kaitlin Thornal

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about how American and Italian cultures differ, how intercultural competence can be achieved and how we can do so communicatively. Intercultural competence requires us to understand how our own culture affects the way we see the world, to see our cultural differences without blinders. I think it’s important to take time to understand ways in which we are alike too. (Of course, without making assumptions and avoiding the first stumbling block to intercultural communication – assumed similarity!) So for this blog post, I’d like to take a moment to highlight a unique likeness that I came across during my time in Cagli.

It was last week, and I was halfway to the cemetery for my interview with its caretaker. As I walked, I pondered the ‘work-to-live/live-to-work’ difference in American and Italian cultures. Suddenly, my heart sank. What if he hates his job?! How will I write about it?! Before I could reconcile that thought in my head, I found myself walking up the cypress-lined path and into the Cagli cemetery. Well, here goes nothing, I thought.

It turns out I had nothing to worry about. The caretaker, Romano, is a very kind-hearted man who cares a lot about his job. “If you don’t feel it, you should just quit,” he said at one point in the interview. This very simple statement stuck with me. He went on to explain that a person needs to care in a job like his, or he/she shouldn’t be there. Boy-oh-boy, I have definitely felt like that before!

In such a short sentence, he summed up a life philosophy that is near and dear to my heart. Life is too short not to “feel” whatever it is that you choose to do with your time on this planet! Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating being a quitter. I am advocating living a life of purpose, on purpose, because you are passionate about what you choose to do. Because you “feel” it. I realize this is idealistic at best, but it’s something I find that I strive for in my own life. Having a conversation with an Italian gentleman whose life and culture are remarkably different from my own and hearing him say this very thing gave me cold chills on that holy July afternoon! Discovering this kindred spirit was the highlight of my day and one of the highlights of my time here.

Down by the river two worlds collide

by Neal Geller

I decided to join several Gonzaga classmates to go down to the river today in Cagli.

The river is beautiful with a waterfall that comes down the mountain.  The local Cagliese say this is an old roman bath area where soldiers would relax.  There were about twenty locals here on this day. There is a wooden bench behind a rock wall that the locals built.  You can put your feet in the water while sitting on this bench.  I am all in!

I want to sit on this bench.  There is a gentleman reading his book. I ask in broken Italian. "Excuse me, may I sit." Surprisingly he says in English "Go ahead." I have just met a retired American ex journalist named Douglas Mine.  He says he is from New Jersey, but moved to Italy with his wife several years ago.
"What a small world down by the river."

Two worlds were about to collide.

Doug was watching his son Patrick, a musician, with his bandmates filming a video for their latest song.  I think how profound that of all places, I am here watching two worlds collide.  You see this is a very small town and a very remote location.  Doug and I are talking about his life in Italy and we start to discuss the differences between American and Italian culture.  "You know America is the only Democratic society that does not have free healthcare," Doug says.

The feeling in this river by the waterfall next to the small village here in Italy, talking to another American who has retired here to share the pros and cons of this society is blowing my mind.

As the band finishes shooting their video they start to pack up.  I noticed at the top of the cliff above us were local Cagliese, watching with glaring eyes.  They seemed concerned.  As I dug deeper into this observation, I find that this place is more than just an old river bed and waterfall.  It is their local hangout, these 21st century cagliese guards, are the roman soldiers today.

When all is clear the Cagliesi men jump into the water and swim over to our area and in a show of brute strength they start to lift big rocks around.  I observe that they are working to repair the area after all the day's events. They are concerned and are working to fix and maintain the surroundings.  This is their home, they are proud of it, and we are their guests.

Our cultures have collided and it is not always accepted.  A young rock band filming a video.  Americans jumping and swimming all around and two gentleman sitting on their bench discussing the policies of governments.

Cagliese guardians
We should remind ourselves that when we visit other countries, we must be sensitive to the culture, the environment and the way of life.  People may not always want to assimilate, but they want you to understand, to adapt and to show respect.  We are all proud of our heritage, but when we are the guest, we must be aware.

We can all live together when we all live down by the river.

Connect me!

By: Hayden Haynes

As we are winding down our adventure in Italy, we are all struggling to communicate with others back home. There is WiFi and internet connection in our lab, but most of the time when we are in there we are either extremely busy or it is in the middle of the night back in the United States. The WiFi in our apartments are, for a lack of a better term, spotty. So if we want to use the internet there we must either hang out of our windows or on the street corner.

Despite this, most of us are not complaining. Several business professionals are actually relieved to not have their iPhone or Blackberry going off every five minutes. We are actually conforming to the Italian lifestyle. You will see locals on their phones, but not as much as in the United States, where are phones are generally glued to our ears or thumbs. You certainly will not see Italians on their phones at dinner. In their culture, dinner is a place for visiting with family and friends. This is a major part of the Italian culture.

So as we wind down, many of us missing family and friends back home. Some of us went out for an Italian meal, and the restaurant we chose had WiFi. Within minutes of realizing we had it, nearly everyone had a piece of technology in their hand. We were getting a few looks from the locals, but it was what we consider “the norm” back home.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Authentic Red Sauce Recipe

by Kristen Evans
The sauce of many pasta dishes, red sauce, the classic tomato sauce, is an unofficial symbol of Italian food and culture. While many Americans testify to having eaten the “best Italian food ever” in some restaurant in the heart of some multicultural city’s “little Italy”, it’s true – if you want the best you have to go to the source. Apparently, garlic and onions don’t both go in the sauce! That’s our American taste adding extra “flavor”. So here are the ingredients of a classic red sauce: - ½ chopped red / purple onions (this is one place where it’s okay to add more “seasoning” by adding a whole onion) - enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a pot - canned petite tomatoes (or whole tomatoes pureed) - salt to flavor (pinches, not the whole box!) It’s that simple. It also makes me wonder…why did some American ever feel the need to add anything extra?! This is how American – Italian is created, or American - insert any other culture, for that matter. Perhaps this notion of “American-izing” cultural elements is a way of creating a comfortable adaptation; selectively appreciating the uniqueness while still maintaining the dominant features of our natural culture. But I must say, authentic red sauce , it’s worth full adopting as is, no extra seasoning needed!

Falling Head Over Heels

by Emily Hernandez, The Third
Our days off of school were well-deserved, and much-needed! Monday, a group of five and I traveled
to nearby Fano for a lovely day on the rocky beach of the Adriatic Sea. It was magnificent. We ate fresh seafood, took naps, and indulged in laziness. 

Day two, however, ended in an accident for me. 
I wanted a great picture of my friends under the waterfall. One way to get to said waterfall is by the water, of which I was not participating. The other way to get there is by walking along the dam wall. At one point it ends abruptly only to resume it's wall status a few feet lower and further away. I thought to myself, "Yeah. I got this. I can totally jump that gap!" 
Well I totally couldn't. 
I feel about 7 feet and landed feet first on some rocks below. My arm is ugly-bruised, and my foot is swollen and achy. Surprisingly, I don't think I broke any bones. I may have a slight, minor fracture in my foot somewhere. I don't think it's bad enough to warrant an x-ray...yet. Nevertheless, I did get great pictures and I am so thankful to have such great friends who are willing to take care of me (you know who y'all are)! 

Also, in an unrelated incident, I found a litter of 6 kittens today in the courtyard. I have seen the momma cat around and just so happened to hear the mewling of her babies. I found them in a deep metal drum right in the sun, roasting. Darcy, the lab tech, moved them for me and his brother, Giovanni, the cat man, has been nursing them slowly to health. 
I am somewhat sad to be going home, only because I know the excitement of my life will be over for a good amount of time. I enjoy the mystery of each day in Cagli. 
You know those moments you have that you know will never quite happen the same way ever again, and you get equal parts grateful and extremely sad? I have been having a LOT of those lately. I hope to bring my family back to Italy once I graduate in a couple of years. It won't be the same, but perhaps I can show them some of the wonders of the city that doesn't want to be found.

Channeling a Non-American

By Megan Powers 

As I set off to see the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica yesterday, I was wearing a long, black halter dress and had my hair pulled up in a bun. 

A guy sitting on the sidewalk yelled out to me, “Senor!” As I kept walking, I thought, that’s odd – why would he say that? He said it once more and then as I was about 100 yards away, he yelled, “Senora! Senora! Senora!” It seemed he thought I was Spanish, and realized he had the wrong gender with the word he used. 


Later in the day I asked for the “bagni” (how it was written on the door at school), and the security guard replied, “Bagno?” To me, that sounded like the Spanish word, which left me thinking, do I have it wrong? 

Am I channeling my inner-Spaniard today? 

That evening I ordered white wine… I said, “Vorrei vino blanco, per favore.” The server replied back by saying “Bianco?” Now it seemed to be a conspiracy! I had been saying blanco for almost two weeks and just realized in Italian class today that white in Italian is, indeed, bianco. 


I realize these confusions happened for various reasons. 

But what sticks with me, is this might be the first time I’ve traveled abroad and I wasn’t assumed to be American. 

For a moment I felt a sense of relief about that, but not because I’m not proud to be American. I am proud, but there’s something to be said for being stripped of that stereotype (if only for a moment... or a day).

Diversity and Inclusion

by Julie Salvato
I want to forget about the fact that I am in Italy for this blog.  I want to write about cultural differences...within the group of Americans I am with.  This is the first time I have studied, relaxed, partied, laughed, and disagreed with so many different people at one time.  I am the only person from New England.  How do I intently listen?  How do I comfortably say things about myself without fear of being judged?  How do I show empathy when I am dealing with struggle myself? enthusiasm when I am tired? goofiness when my peers are serious?       

What we need to remember is not all people who look a like think alike, and not all people who look different disagree.  But, what happens when people who are “different” do not express any unique perspectives themselves?  Why would anyone want to express themselves if they are different- to stand out as different....?

Now, I’ll bring Italy back into the conversation, just for a moment.  For fear of not being accepted, I will do as the Italians do and ‘I’m just going to take a minute to breath’.  It’s ok to be different.  In fact, different is the new normal.  I’d rather be Julie than follow the crowd.  My opinions matter, at least to me.  I also want to leave my footprint.  I did. I’ve done.    

America is at a new frontier when it comes to diversity.  The nation has its first African-American president, and more and more women hold positions of corporate power (CEO of  HP, IBM, PepsiCo, Yahoo, etc).  Especially with easy access to the world wide web , we are more likely to come into contact with people unlike ourselves than ever before, and in every aspect of our lives.  On the other hand, discrimination, whether conscious or not, limits an organization’s ability to get the best from its workforce.  In my opinion, social diversity makes people with independent points of view more willing to voice those points of view, and others more willing to listen.  

There are several business implications when companies fail to understand cultural differences, particularly in entering the marketplace and meeting customer needs.  When a company is not diverse, it is not learning the intercultural skills of acceptance, respect, valuing, and adaptation in culture.  I will not be able to go through my career just the way that I was.  I need to be diverse and I need to be able to communicate with diverse people.  I have learned those skills not only because I lived in Italy for three weeks, but because I was with an amazing, diverse group of people. 

Alternative Medicine in Cagli

By Katie Price

            When I’m not enjoying Cagli through Gonzaga, I live in Bahrain.  There are few things that bloom in the desert so I anticipated an adverse allergic reaction when I traveled to the verdant region of le Marche, Italy. I brought what I thought would be a sufficient amount of anti-histamines for my three weeks here. I made a slight miscalculation; I ran out of my American medicine in the first three days here.

            My journey to health began at a traditional pharmacy where I got over-the-counter anti-histamine.  I took it religiously every morning and evening.  Although my health was improving, I still had a runny nose and frequent coughing fits.  I knew I wasn’t dying but it was difficult to explain my coughing fits to the sweet lady scooping gelato while I’m turning colors because I can’t breathe.

            Around the corner from my house, I noticed a sign for the erbolisteria – a small shop featuring alternative medicines.  Armed with my dictionary and some props (cough drops and tissues), I walked as confidently as I could manage into the store.  The cashier was helping another woman so I browsed the products nervously waiting for my turn to talk.

            It took about 15 minutes but I managed to explain my symptoms in broken Italian and substantial gesturing.  This extremely patient woman suggested an herbal supplement to be taken orally twice a day coupled with a nose spray made of grapefruit and other natural ingredients.  We pantomimed while referring heavily to my dictionary and scribbling instructions in a hybrid Italian-English on the back of her business card.  When I felt confident that I understood, I thanked her profusely and paid for the merchandise.

            Did this alternative medicine really work?  Actually, it has been much more efficient than the prescription medicine I had in the first place!  Negotiating medicine in an unfamiliar tongue can be awkward but I know the people of Cagli trust this woman with their health so why shouldn’t I?

For more about the woman who runs this shop, please click on this link.

Italian for Dummies

by Jamie Perkins
While I approach my temporary home with the goal of understanding local norms and customs, I can’t help but find it difficult to adapt, despite my best efforts. Prior to arriving, I intentionally did very little research on the city of Cagli, as I wanted to come with an open mind, and little to no preconceived notions or expectations. By taking this approach to cultural adaptation, I have been attempting to immerse myself into everyday life in this small city, with some successes, and a number of mishaps.

I studied Spanish in high school and college, and only knew a few Italian words before I arrived. While it can be said that much of the Italian language is understood by gestures and nonverbal communication, I am struggling to grasp basic Italian words and phrases (my Italian-American grandparents would be very disappointed). I find that I revert back to Spanish as I search for the right thing to say, and become frustrated when I am unable to interact with local residents when they seem so eager to speak to me.

Language is one of the six stumbling blocks to effective intercultural communication, and I have certainly stumbled, nay— tripped and fallen, in this department. Knowing my limitations, I put a lot of effort into studying for my Italian conversation quiz only to find my professor teasing the class about the study group that assembled prior to the test. “It breaks my heart to see students studying Italian from a book while they’re in the piazza. If you really want to learn, go talk to the people living here,” he said dramatically.

Well, that’s the problem. While I’m certainly motivate to learn, I lack the knowledge. I understand my professor’s point, but for someone who does not pick up new languages easily, I find that for me, it’s definitely a balance between the flash cards and the daily interactions in the caffè.

It may seem silly to think I would be able to fully assimilate to Italian culture in the short time the Gonzaga program is in Cagli. So while I continue to strive to speak the language, maybe I should relax a bit, and not be so hard on myself.

BUS-ted in Fano!

by Hayden Haynes 
As posted in a previous post, a group of us decided to take an Italian bus to Fano to spend the day on the stoney, but beautiful beach, of the Adriatic Sea. Though we made the round trip journey safely, it was not without a few interesting experiences.

First, it is amazing the turn radius these buses have. The speed at which they make these turns without hitting a single curb is remarkable. The trip is about an hour and a half weaving through the Italian mountains toward the coast. Often, it felt like the bus was mere inches away from cars, bikers, and edges of cliffs. We joked that the Italian buses only change break pads about once a decade because the breaks were rarely used, even on sharp turns.

As we waited with a large group of people for the last return bus of the day from Fano, we began to wonder how full this bus was going to be. It pulls up and dozens of people push and fight their way toward the doors. We made it on, but it was standing room only. It was fine. We were just happy to have made it on.

As we began to move, we stopped and on came an Italian transportation officer and two bus officials. They began to push and squeeze their way through the bus, checking tickets. Luckily, we were taught to stamp our tickets so we were in the clear. The same could not be said for the few they threw off of the bus. Having never experienced this in the states, it was a unique twist to our journey!

Topless in Fano

by K. Greer
Assumed similarities. They’re pesky little things.

I’ve been in Italy almost two weeks, and my ethnocentrism refuses to let me believe that other cultural groups have different values than Americans do. Of course, we expect superficial things to be different (food, music, television), but deep down, we don’t expect the things that we feel strongly about – the things that cause us visceral reactions – to differ from culture to culture. Correction: I didn’t. Until Fano.
Absolutely no topless women are pictured in this
still-captivating photo.

Several of my classmates and I endured a speedy, shaky, scary bus ride to the beach. Once there, we posted up shorefront, rented beach chairs, umbrellas, tablet computers and all.

An hour or so into one of the most restful days of my life, a woman walked into my field of vision. She was middle-aged, probably a mother. She walked with two older women who might have been in their sixties. The older women wore one-piece swimsuits. The middle-aged woman wore only a bikini bottom.

She strolled slowly – comfortably – along the shore, chatting with her older friends. None of the others on the beach noticed her. She didn’t attempt to cover herself. Though she was the only person on our end of the beach who swam topless, she didn’t appear to be at all self-conscious.

I’ve read that most cultures in the world consider breasts to be utilitarian first of all. I think that, in the United States, we consider breasts to be sexual first and utilitarian second … or third or fourth.

The woman’s breasts did not offend me. I was only shocked that she was so absolutely comfortable in her nakedness. In my time here, I’ve seen several little girls running around topless, and I’d assumed it was a matter of age rather than of culture. I thought I was going to the beach for a day off. I never expected a seaside education on intercultural values and attitudes.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The most amazing classrooms ever!!

by Samuel Starbuck
There is an ancient tradition of building castle strongholds on the top of hills in Italy. Driving the autostrada it's possible to look out your window and see an enormous fortress perched atop the tallest hill in the area. This was done to give a town the greatest advantage over a marauding enemy. I have visited two such places in the last week and a half, Urbino and the independent republic of San Marino. These cities, like Cagli, are living clasrooms of religious art, politics and ancient siege tactics. The beauty of these cities is not to be underestimated; winding cobblestone streets weave back and forth past castles, towers and churches. Inside many of these ancient structures are museums dedicated to the cities medieval history. Pictures, at least the ones I take, can scarcely do justice to these wonders of the world.

 I Attempted to place myself in the shoes of an ancient stone mason; transporting massive cut stones from the base of the mountain to the top and putting them in place while looking down a sheer drop of several hundred feet. While I know I will never actually have this experience, to live, just for a moment, vicariously through an ancient civilization has me so much more appreciative of my time spent here in Cagli. I savor each moment as a chance to experience something new to me and old at the same time. As I focus on the people of Cagli and our class presentations, I am reminded of the struggles both ancient and modern Italy, and the honor of being able to study in one of the most culturally rich areas of our increasingly small world.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

What an Iceberg!

By Rachel Phelps

Dr. Caputo explained today that culture is a lot like an iceberg. Most of what makes “culture” is below the surface. One interesting thing is that food is at the top – meaning the differences in food between one culture and another are easily perceptible to most people. I have a few friends who seem to be ignorant of the fact that just because they patronize Cambodian restaurants doesn’t mean they understand Cambodian culture... but that is beside the fact.

 What are below the waterline of this cultural iceberg are things like attitudes, values, beliefs and perceptions. These are the kinds of things that we as Graduate students are here in Cagli to observe and understand. And it’s amazing what characteristics in others and ourselves only emerge—and emerge rather dramatically—when we’re faced with the cultural dissonance that defines full immersion in a culture that is not our own.

Each of us in this program came in at a different place on the intercultural learning continuum and we have each processed our experiences here, and in another culture, through our own understanding. However, more than anything, this experience has highlighted the significant differences that exist even in the “iceberg” of our own common “American” culture.

Now it would be easy to assume that differences would lead to further annoyances or misunderstandings within our group, but quite the opposite has been true. I have witnessed that as the extent of our differences is being exposed, our true strength is also being revealed. Sharing our differences has been critical to helping us understand and appreciate each other and those that we are meeting along the way.

The bond we are creating is where strength in diversity is tested and proved. This is where people from all around the country and very different backgrounds—strangers—are suddenly, and truly friends. This is a lesson we can’t be taught by an instructor, and won’t read in a book. We just have to be here. Together.

(To my comrades in study - if you're not in one of the photos it's because I just didn't have a good enough one of you yet - I'll get it!)