This morning we had two more group presentations. The first group took us to the New Equiline Market (Nuovo Mercato Esquilino). It’s a very international market that reminded me of the one my friend and I went to in Florence last year.
Our task at this place was to buy a particular food using only English and no hand gestures. The purpose was to give us a sense of how hard it is for someone new to a country to buy food when they don’t have any skills in the dominant language. We were divided into groups of four. Only two people in the group could talk at all. The other two were supposed to be only observers. You can probably guess that my group made me an observer so that I wouldn’t be tempted to speak in Italian. 🙂
You might think it very easy to do this task in English since English is such a prevalent language, but it actually wasn’t. My group was told to buy dried apricots. I watched as the two speakers in my group asked for dried apricots at multiple stands. The conversation went something like this: (remember no pointing was allowed):
Student: Do you have any dried apricots?
Student: Dried apricots?
Vendor says something in Italian that is unintelligible to my classmate, but he points to something orange.
Student: Are those dried apricots?
Vendor says something again and shakes his head no, even though they certainly look like dried apricots.
We progress to a second vendor.
Student: Do you have dried apricots?
Vendor looks confused.
Student: What are those orange things next to you? (Remember she can’t point)
The vendor says something in Italian.
Student: (to us) That sounded like the Italian word for apricots but I’m not sure. (to vendor) Are they dried?
At this point, I’m dying because I know they are dried apricots but I can’t say anything. Then we go to a vendor that has a sign that says “Frutta secca.” I know this means “dried fruit,” but again I’m not allowed to talk. I’m only taking notes.
On this third try, my classmate finally gets a guy who speaks enough English to understand what she means, and she buys one Euro worth. When we debriefed afterwards, we talked about the fact that it was really the word “dried” that was confusing the vendors. They knew the English world “apricot,” and my classmates had some familiarity with the Italian word for apricots from their previous visits to fruit markets in Italy, but no one could get the “dried” part across.
Other groups had to find things like peanut butter (not common in Italy) and ketchup. The ketchup group could only find banana ketchup, which I guess is a thing here.
Afterwards, we talked about how hard it can be to find what you’re looking for when you don’t have the right words and you may not have anything to point to. Also, other countries don’t have exactly the same thing you are looking for. You are used to certain foods. They may have something with a similar name, but it’s not exactly the same.
The second group of the day took us to the Jewish ghetto. This is where the Catholic Church for a few hundred years forced the Jews in Rome to live. It was the swampiest part of the city near the Tiber River. During World War II, it’s also where the Nazis rounded up the Jews, most of whom died in concentration camps. After the war, the remaining Jews were allowed to move out of the ghetto. However, only the wealthiest could do so. Interestingly, the neighborhood is now very trendy, and the poorer Jews who remained after WWII have actually seen their property values skyrocket.
The Jewish ghetto still has many Kosher shops. My Muslim classmate told me she had a taste for falafel, and that it’s debated as to whether it’s more of an Arabic or a Jewish food. (I had always thought of it as simply Middle Eastern, but what do I know? 🙂 ). Having never tried falafel, I decided to go with her to a restaurant that had falafel advertised on its signs. It turned out to be very tasty and was served with some excellent humus.
Just goes to show how international of a city Rome is. Last night I had Chinese, and today I had falafel!
Later in the afternoon, I made a gelato stop and did a little bit of shopping. After several trips to Rome without buying any clothing, I actually bought a dress today!
Back on campus, I worked on my final project, which is due on Friday, and had a light dinner. I can’t believe there are only two more days of school at Loyola. Then it’s on to studying Italian again!