We’ve explored a handful of different countries in the past year from Denmark to Portugal to the UK to France to Croatia and Italy, where we are now. They all speak different languages in them, which can be a challenge when bouncing around countries.
My French came back to me.
I learned some French in school, and I was pleased at the rate it came back to me when visiting France.
Of course, traveling in the UK was a piece of cake when it came to language, though time in Wales presented a few interesting experiences. I also picked up a few new words like rubbish. :)
All the while traveling to different countries, I knew we’d be in Italy the longest and we needed (and wanted) to learn Italian. It made learning Italian front and center.
Still, while in Portugal I made some efforts to learn a few extra words beyond the basic greetings.
My attempts at learning some of the local language in any given country is for survival, but also to show respect for another country’s language.
Time to get crackin’ with Italiano
Once we were in Croatia, I knew the time to Italy was approaching fast.
It was time to get serious about learning Italian. And, with Croatian seemingly a difficult language, I didn’t put as much effort into learning much. I memorized a few basic words and intentionally stopped there. Things like greetings and how to order beef at the butcher. You know, important stuff. But I couldn’t help feeling like it was limiting my Croatian experience a bit to not go beyond.
Then, I had a neat experience in a local bakery one day.
There was this one bakery where Kamea and I loved buying cookies and bread. Their baked goods were made with high quality ingredients with unique flavor combinations. You really felt like the products were special – they were all so beautiful. Delicious rustic breads, braided cookies, and smells of which we couldn’t get enough.
The freshly made breads and cookies were thick with texture bordering on the perfect amount of dryness so that your sip of coffee or tea to wash it down creates perfect harmony. One without the other would not be the same.
Tunnel-vision to deliciousness.
So, I learned the ideal time to visit the bakery was early afternoon. You see, this was the time after the busy morning rush, but before closing. Hence, fewer options were tantalizing me as they sold out, otherwise I simply didn’t resist when going in the morning.
It was the difference between buying two things or five, knowing full-well their freshness was only best for the next 24 hours, so buying 5 things means consuming 5 things… today. No complaints from my daughter of course, only my waistband. If I went in the afternoon it was pretty safe I’d walk out with only 1-2 things. If it was morning? Fuggedaboutit. I opted for drawstring pants.
One day, I went beyond the basic “Hi.”
They knew me from my repeat business. In particular, most of the time, there was a young girl who worked there and an older lady. But, I didn’t get warm fuzzies from them, in spite of my repeat business. Nothing bad, just … indifferent, which I found interesting given that I was there almost every day.
But, one day, I wanted to say more. I memorized a few things and repeated them over and over in my mind as I waited my turn in line.
When I was up, I beyond saying just hi and said, “Kako si?” (How are you?)
Everything forever changed.
This simple “how are you” in their language took me next level in her eyes. I went beyond my usual “hi, thank you, and please” in Croatian, and it turned me from tourist to the prospect that I might be more than a tourist.
In a city like Split, a tourist town, and like all tourist towns, the locals usually don’t have time to get to know someone before they’re gone. Combine that with with a recent history of communism and it’s a recipe for indifference.
Well… She. Lit. Up!
Even beyond that, she went to the back to get me the freshest cookies straight from the oven and still warm. She started asking me questions in English, inquiring if we were there for long or just a short vacation. She told me the name of the buns I’m always buying… described as “hedgehog” in Croatian for the bumpy pattern designing the top of them. And she patiently helped me in my attempts to pronounce letters in their alphabet.
Everything changed with that simple “how are you” question.
As a result, I created a memory. I learned a life lesson. And, I left there with a bit deeper connection. :)