Italian at the train station

Aside from native born Americans and some tribal peoples, most of the world is bilingual. I studied a few languages at school in a desultory way, but it wasn’t until 1990 when I moved to Italy that fluency took on a certain urgency. I think one tends to remember the first foreign communication triumphs, like the first time I asked for an eggplant and (amazing) was handed one.

Or the time I paid for a ticket on the Cumana, the local commuter line, a few weeks into my stay. Tickets then were flimsy slips of paper and with wallet and pockets I suddenly couldn’t find mine. “I gave it to you,” the clerk said, but checked her counter obligingly. “Oh, here it is, in my pocket,” I said. She wished me good day and I left the counter. OK, not a thrilling interchange but I realized with stunned delight that I had actually used the direct object pronoun! And the right gender (biglietto — ticket — is male [of course])! Did she notice? Should I go back and remind her? I didn’t, but it was happy moment.

Soon after, on a rainy winter day, I was buying an inter-city ticket at the downtown station, open to the street, and couldn’t get up to the counter because a large wet stray dog was huddled against the wall. Not knowing what insect life inhabited the fur, I called to the agent, a meter away, “One round trip to Rome.”

“Come to the counter, Signorina.”

“I can’t, there’s a wet dog here.”

“A what?”

“A wet dog.” I pointed. With a “These foreigners!” sigh, he left his post, came around to my side and looked down where I pointed.

“It’s a wet dog,” he announced. I agreed. He shooed the dog away. “Might have fleas. You shouldn’t get too close,” he said. I agreed. My first extended exchange with a ticket agent.

Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

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One comment on “Italian at the train station
  1. Doc says:

    This inoamrotifn is off the hizool!


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Sunday, May 6, 2pm reading from latest work at Hexagon Brewing Company, Knoxville, TN.

Thursday, May 10, 6-8 pm presentation on research on the historical novel, Blount County Library, Maryville, TN.

When We Were Strangers, Italian translation, to be presented in Pescasseroli, Italy, August 2018.

Recent Review
“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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