Thursday, December 4
The teacher greeted me in front of all the other parents like this:
“ Aah, Mamma of Skye, you can’t read can you?”
I looked at her and so did everyone else, “excuse me?” I said, hoping that I had heard wrong.
“You, being a straniera (foreigner), cannot read, is that right?”
“I’m sorry, “ I said, trying to stay calm and polite, “but I don’t quite get what you mean. Read? As in words…books? Why would I not be able to read because I am ‘foreign’?
“Oh, well I don’t mean to offend, but I just presumed that you wouldn’t know how to read in Italian.” She started to look flustered. I could have happily bashed her on the head her at that point.
“Of course I can bloody well read you stupid cow,” I wanted to say. I didn’t though. I took a deep breath and said, “I can speak, read and write in Italian. I may have an accent, I may make mistakes, I may be a straniera but that does not make me ignorant."
I could have said sooo much more.
She reminded me of the Neopolitans that arrive en-masse in the summer, swarming onto the pier in all their cheap flashy finery. Sometimes they would drift over to ask where they should eat, or where a free beach was. As soon as I started replying they would interrupt me with the annoyingly incredulous, "Ma, sei straniera!" (But, you are foreign!").
I would ignore that, and carry on with my directions to them, but they would be perturbed, thrown by the fact that I wasn't 'one of them' and ask all sorts of questions.
"You are foreign aren't you?"
"what's that got to do with the directions I am giving you'"
"But...you're a straniera!"
"You live in Italy?"
"aah, but you don't speak Italian do you"
"What do you think I am speaking!! (bigger sigh)
Once after a ten minute conversation with one of these Neopolitans about life, love and Italy, she suddenly broke off the conversation saying, "Aaah, but I forget, you are a straniera, you don't understand me...YOU..NO...SPEEK...ITALY...OK!"
And she walked off.
I argued with Carlo about this 'straniera' phenomenom. He said it is perfectly normal to believe that 'foreigners' cannot read in languages not their own. I suppose it all boils down to how long one has actually been a 'straniera'.
at 12:35 PM