*Hannah Montana’s Everybody Makes Mistakes playing in the background*
On March 19th, I posted a pre-reflection blog about how Cinque Terre is unaccessible by cars and about the huge intention I had to study the native people and gain a sense of how they handled this isolation. Well ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you that I was utterly and completely wrong, there were almost as many cars as tourists in that town (lol). I am terribly sorry for the false information I gave you, but I hope you find the following blog post on being an American in a small Italian town a suitable replacement for my utterly incorrect analysis of the local’s isolation.
I am not sure why I wasn’t terribly struck by the Americanness of our group in Germany, maybe it was because we were surrounded by other tourists, or because many of the Germans we met were just as loud as we were, but no matter what the reason was, it disappeared the minute we arrived in Italy. Even in the train station, there was something about the seriousness and culture of the Italians that made me feel wildly judged as an “ugly American”. The moment that I noticed this the most though was on the morning after we arrived in Riomaggore as my four roommates and I sat down for breakfast at local restaurant. Sitting beside us was a elderly Italian woman enjoying her espresso and reading the paper. I suddenly realized that this was her everyday life and we were intruding on it. She was starting one of her many normal days of doing everything she could to care for her family, and there we were gawking over the food and discussing the tourist events of the day with disturbing American accents. Almost as quickly as I felt guilty for intruding though, I began to realize the gift that was visiting a small town and eating breakfast with the locals. I started to notice children running through the streets and walking up to store fronts to kiss their parents who were already hard at work. I noticed trucks making deliveries from local farms so that restaurants would have their supplies for the day. The life of Riomaggore that we were temporarily immersed in was beautiful, simple, and successful. It made me want to be apart of it instead of intrude in it, and it made me examine the vast differences between my own culture and the one I was witnessing. I understood why we were perceived as ugly Americans. It seems to me that it is because tourists came and selfishly trampled all over a place that was dedicated to hard work and family. Although there are so many things that contribute to this stereotype and how people on both sides see each other, I believe that it comes down to a difference in intentions and values. Although I still feel guilty, I know that a lot of the local’s hard work goes into the tourist industry, and so I am grateful for the love they showed us during our stay despite the apparent difference in the intentions of our time in Cinque Terre. I am also grateful that I was able to see this difference and internally check my own behavior as a tourist. Our intention should be to learn about, honor, and appreciate the locals, rather than use them for their hard working nature and trample their cities.
My last two notes on being an American abroad are these:
1. Buy a plane ticket and go visit Cinque Terre. It is by far one of the most, if not THE most, beautiful and enjoyable places I have ever visited, and we do not have anything that even slightly compares back home. It is the perfect combination of Italian culture, beach life, and a hikers paradise, all combined in less than a few square miles. Not to mention how amazing the food, vibrant buildings, and welcoming people were.
2. Only a stupid American would trust the internet on the facts of a small Italian town. So, you have heard it before, and you will hear it again, but here it is from me, don’t trust everything you read on the internet! Although making a mistake and laughing profusely at myself was not the worst thing ever, I encourage you to leave Google behind and go figure things out for yourself! You will learn more about history, facts, people, and being a stereotypical American than you even thought possible.