Communication with the locals in Italy

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January 07, 2022.

Every eight days, the program I’m a part of, Semester at Sea, attempts to transport us to a new port. The days we are not in ports; we’re attending classes, trying not to get seasick, and living without internet. This entire journey has been an adventure. The first country we visited was Italy, namely Naples. The excitement I felt while walking through the streets of Naples was indescribable. I felt as if I were in a dream or watching a movie. Everything felt very authentic. There was a pizza on every corner, the roads were so narrow, the clothes were out hanging to dry, and people kept moving their hands while conversing.

It was early in the morning, I was hungry, and I thought to myself, “I should eat my leftovers with a glass of milk, but where can I buy milk?” I stepped outside and began walking till I came upon a small business in a corner. I looked inside and noticed three people speaking; however, I was unable to enter since the store was so small that there did not appear to be enough place for one more person. Furthermore, they appeared to be having an intriguing discussion, given the fact that I had been attempting to get their attention for quite some time. I was standing outside the door and didn’t want to be impolite, so I didn’t disturb their talk. They noticed I was standing at the entrance after a few minutes. I didn’t know how to say good morning in Italian, so I began speaking in Spanish and English. Because Spanish is related to Italian, I hoped they might be able to grasp at least part of the words. I also spoke in English because it is considered as a worldwide language, and there was a possibility that they spoke it as well. Of course, I didn’t know how to ask for milk in Italian, so I said, “Hello, good morning, I am seeking for milk.” Based on the movements of my hands, they mistook me for asking for water and gave me water. After about a minute of attempting to speak with them, the three women instructed me to enter and get what I needed. When I reached for the milk, one of them said, “Ohh, latte.” She then tells me that I should try to learn the word in Italian, so she has me repeat the word “latte” several times. I informed her that I had travelled all the way from America, and she told me that she had immigrated from Czechia and had been residing in Italy for nearly 8 years. She also stated that in Czech, we pronounce “mléko,” but in Italian, we say “latte.” I proceeded to explain her that we pronounce “leche” in Spanish and “milk” in English. We both laughed and I thanked them. I left to eat my leftovers with milk. That event has stayed with me to this day, and it makes me happy. Hopefully, I’ll be able to interact with the people again like this, and my goal for the next nation is to learn some words.