I added an AltaVista Babel Fish translator so now you can translate this blog into some other languages. Thanks to my invaluable year of World Studies in high school (where I learned that Henry VIII had syphallis), I don't recognize most of the flags on the little translator. I don't know how accurate the thing is, but when I translated the page in Italian, it seemed basically right to me, although I don't think that it can account for all the little jokes and nuances inherent in language and speech.
Some of you may know that I spent a month in Italy last summer, on a school trip. I lived in a tiny quiet town with few inhabitants and about a dozen stray dogs that roamed around. We spent our days studying, going to class, and eating delicious traditional Italian meals, and at night everyone gathered at the only bar in town (bar in the American meaning of the word). We took trips to other citys on a huge bus that seemed like it could tip over the tiny fences and roll all the way down the mountain when we took tight turns in it. Sulmona was nearby, relaxed and beautiful; Rome was overrated, hot and sticky with confusing public transit; Naples was Detroit: Italian Style; Pompeii was incredible, especially the collesseum and the erotic art; Pescara was a beach town on the Adriatic, one of the most relaxed and happy days I spent there, swimming, collecting seashells, napping on the beach; and Florence, tied with Pescara for my favorite place, was lovely, with great street shopping, drinking wine on the steps of the Duomo and the Uffizi, where I cried when I saw Botticelli's Birth of Venus in all it's hugeness--and I didn't even know I liked that painting!
What I loved the most, as indicated by what I spent most of my money on, was the food. Cheeseless thin crust pizza , gelato*, pasta, salad, briscetta, fresh mozzerella with tomato and basil, fresh bread dipped in olive oil...I miss it all very much. And of course it's very difficult to find such food in the states, unless you know an Italian nonna.
I'm looking for a part time job right now, just a little something to give me extra cash since I'm not taking any classes this semester. So I have to endure the humiliating process of convincing someone they should hire me. Today I interviewed for a position at a psuedo-Italian Panera Bread style pizzaria. It began to occur to me how much I hate establishments like these, for so many reasons, but also because they Americanize the food of other cultures and places to make it more marketable to American consumers. Where we could actually have the rich and culturally diverse country that some people feel we have, we have this watered down bastardized version of culture full of homogenous malls and shopping plazas, chain stores and franchised fast food. Included in this Americanization is the renaming of items, giving things a name with hints of another language, with strange words that usually aren't actual words in that language. American purports to be a melting pot, but the only parts of other cultures that America ever readily accepts are things that can be made marketable, things that can be enjoyed without cultural interaction. Some things are Americanized to make them more desirable to consumers, while other things are hyper-exotified for the same reason, which I guess means that that hyper-exotification also constitutes a form of Americanization (This is how I explain why I saw an Arab couple my age at Halloween USA buying Jasmine and Aladdin costumes a couple Halloweens ago--the embrace of their own exotification? self-hate? I really don't know what they were thinking). [ed. note: as a sidenote, I do feel that there is a lot more to American culture than this, and many cultural groups have managed to forge distinct identities that are included in "American culture," but I also think that their suppression and dillution is a significant and examinable part of our culture.]
I know that some American white people who are more than 2nd or 3rd generation feel like they are missing something. They are angry about this lack of culture, and feel victimized because they see others as having something that they don't. But culture is something that you have, whether you like it or not. It's a legacy that your grandparents and their grandparents create for you. You may not like this legacy, especially if it includes things that you don't want to claim or examine, but it is yours, and every part of it belongs to you in some way.
Where am I going with this? Not sure. Maybe later.
*At this time, I was a vegan-on-hiatus, because I would have starved otherwise. Italians don't do vegetarian, period, and to be vegan is pretty much unheard of. But the situation is vastly different than that in the US, because there is not the same type of food industry.