In Answer to the Number One Question

13:55 Friday, 13 March 2009

I can’t describe the feelings Susan and I get when we receive some sort of connection from a friend. Being on the field, away from friends, and still learning the language is sometimes like being a huge isolation chamber. One is aware of the surroundings but hits a wall in the amount and depth of interaction. So, a card, a SKYPE call, an email, a facebook post or note — each time I see in our box downstairs something other than a “publicita'” from the local grocer, or one my computer a little red number indicating someone may have written on my wall, I get a certain lift inside or a fresh burst of energy. So, thank you, wonderful friends, who have written, mailed, called, or some other way let us know you are there, praying for us and remembering us.

The most popular question lately has been a variation of “So, how’s the language coming?” From a Georgia friend, its more, “So, hair yall doin with Etalyon?” There are ways to answer this that sound great, and not so great. Compared to August a year ago, I have come a long, long way from only reciting 1 to 12 and the primary colors. I can count upwards of a thousand now, and know “blu” can be “azurre” or “celeste.”

I can sit in church and understand, when I concentrate, about 60-70% of what goes on, and I don’t break out in a cold sweat when I am at a cash register or restaurant. I am able to negotiate my way around the piazza market on Fridays and when I lead a Bible study, I occasionally break out in Italian, and understand more than 80% up close one-on-one. The not-so-great part is, I am still far from conversational (after a few sentences, I get stuck) and it takes a huge act of will to concentrate on understanding and responding for more than an hour or two. Classes help; conversations help more; being in an Italian Small Group study (I am leading the new men’s study – or “Man Study” as one calls it – at church) is the real gift God has provided.

Our “lingua Italiana” instructor asks us occasionally to write about things in our life. This week, she asked us to write about a famous landmark or statue in America. I, in one of my weirder moments, bypassed stone mountains, and presidential monuments, and chose one that is perhaps more famous in Atlanta than any of those. Below, by popular request, is the Italian version (corrected by the teacher, as I really have trouble matching prepositions and articles with nouns for some reason.) If you have trouble figuring it out, there is always

“Vicino ad Atlanta, c’e’ un monumento famoso in tutto il mondo. Che e’ alto quasi quindici metri e si trova alla destra della strada inportante nel’ villagio di Marietta di fronte all’ ristorante famose per i panini di cotoletta. Il colore del monumento e’ bianco e rosso. Si chiama Il Pollo Grande.”

Ciao from your monumentally serious friend in Italy!