Sunday, July 22, 2012


by Libby Weber 
What is the deal with all this noise pollution?? I understand that we are living in compact housing, the streets are narrow, neighbors are close, and all the stone walls and hard surfaces reflect noise of any kind. But what’s with the acceptance of loudness at the most inappropriate times of the day? I am the only one that thinks normal sleeping hours are generally 11:00pm to 7:00am? Apparently so. I hear kids screaming long after midnight, boisterous conversations starting at 4:00 in the morning, and obnoxiously loud and high pitch squeals of moped motors any time in between. It doesn’t matter which day of the week it is either. Do they really need to dump all glassware in the recycling bins in the middle of the night? My only saving grace is that the bakery outside my window is closed on Sundays, so I don’t have to get up at 3:45am and close my shutters. If this I was this loud at home during these times, I’d have neighbors that would be giving me dirty looks, local police stopping by asking me to ‘keep it down’. I don’t think two weeks here in Cagli will give me enough time to understand or adjust. And here’s the real kicker….I got shushed and scolded in a foreign language by an Italian women two floors above me for having a phone conversation in the street at 11:00 on a Saturday night! What?!? C’mon…

Sidewalks, Bike Lanes, and Cobblestones

by Lori Shannon
The little town of Cagli was destroyed in battle in 1287 and rebuilt in 1289. People still live in houses that are over 400 years old. The village and its residents have survived famine, earthquakes, and epic snowstorms.

So have the tiny streets that wind in and out and up and down the hills of Cagli. They are paved in cobblestones and are just wide enough for a single compact car to squeeze though. There are no sidewalks or bike lanes. Pedestrians and cyclists must share the narrow one-way streets.

But this doesn’t create problems – everyone patiently waits their turn to cross the intersection. Despite having a car whiz by you, it’s not alarming. You know the driver has navigated these roads for years and has expertly steered his car avoiding anyone on foot or bike. He’s also not driving a gigantic SUV that weighs eight tons and has multiple blind spots.

In the United States, roads are constantly being widened to accommodate more and more vehicles. Sidewalks and bike lanes are everywhere – as a child you’re told to stay on the sidewalk and never walk in the street. Cyclists cling to the bike lane for safety – many drivers are distracted and accidents involving crashes between cars and bikes are too common. Eating, drinking, texting and talking are more important that paying attention to the road for many American drivers.

It’s nice to be in a place were widening streets to add lanes for more cars isn’t an option. Here everyone on the road must get along. In Cagli, the cobblestones and tiny roads don’t discourage people from walking and riding their bikes.

Volume in the Piazza

by Christy Ward
 In the time that we have been in Cagli, it is interesting to be able to realize the small things that have become more apparent of how we, as American citizens, stand out in different ways. One of the things that has stood out to me more and more recently as we sit and enjoy a glass of wine or gelato in the piazza is how loud our group is compared to the Italian people around us.

Our group of students, families and instructors enjoy gathering and creating an ever-growing table that some of the locals join in on. It is a fun time of conversation and a time to wind down after our day of work to debrief or share our experiences and thoughts. This is probably not so unique as compared to what many of the other families do, but what I have noticed is that the volume of our conversations is generally much louder than all the other tables.

It is not uncommon for people to begin to talk or laugh louder as more people join in or there is a point that we want to share in the conversation with others. I now have begun to notice looks and curiousity from other tables as our volume escalates. I am at the point that it has become a bit of an embarrassment. I don’t want to be disrespectful to this community that has so openly and warmly welcomed us, and so as I observe it strikes me that this is a point of dissonance.

Even sitting quietly at a table in the piazza it can be unusual to be able to hear a conversation from an adjacent table. Rarely can you hear a child being fussy or argumentative with their parents. They appear to generally be well mannered and quiet. A similar scenario in the United States could often be louder and more chaotic. This is certainly something in my future travels that I will have a heightened awareness of.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Flow of Life

by Heather Hafer 
A quote from The Doors “Ride the snake…until the end of time” keeps coming to mind as I continue to experience the natural flow of life in Cagli. Life flows as naturally here as the Bosso River just north of town. The Cagliese do not attempt to control time or anything for that matter.

Each day I visit Mimi’s cafĂ© where I order an espresso from Mimi who greets me with a friendly “Buon Giorno.” People drink coffee together while watching out over the piazza or quietly reading the newspaper. Often people sit quietly content in the presence of one another. There aren’t people rushing about with paper to-go cups of over-sugared coffee-flavored drinks in sizes that could serve an entire family. People simply have one coffee, cappuccino or espresso and, should they need another boost of caffeine in a few hours, they simply return among friends to share another.

Meals are not rushed. There may be a 30-minute wait for the eggplant Parmesan or lasagna being made fresh in the kitchen and if asking for the bill, the staff may wonder ‘what’s the rush?’

Meetings with people may change to new times and often do. Scheduled events often are not at any specific moment in time. Often, things are not what they seem. And the most amazing part of it all is that it all works out perfectly.

If we simply have faith in the natural order of things, and let life meander as it may, we find that we truly enjoy the ride.

The third bowl

by Molly Rupert
 It was time to find out just why there is a third porcelain bowl in the bathrooms here in Cagli and most of Europe. Bowl #1- the sink. Bowl #2 - the toilet. Bowl #3 - the bidet.

The unusual looking contraption, with its multiple water spouts and shower-like attachments, is a standard in every restroom. American’s stretch bathrooms to fit larger showers and tubs, Italians add the third bowl.

I wasn’t sure how to use it beyond a general idea of how it worked. There is no manual and no instructions printed on the side of the bowl. So I did what anyone would do, I Googled it. There are MANY instructions in multiple formats, but the cartoon was my favorite. There are a lot of different ways to say bum!

After I stopped laughing, I got ready, took a deep breath and turned on the water. I made sure it wasn’t too hot… I like those parts down there and burns didn’t sound pleasant.

When the water was just the right temperature, I sat and let the bowl do it’s magic. I moved the spigot here and there to make sure I got the full experience. Sure enough, everything got wet.

Getting the water on your bum isn’t the problem _ the bowl does that for you _ but getting the water off and your bum dry is trickier. It takes some work. Toilet paper sticks _ a lot _ and there would be significantly more laundry if you used a towel each time you used the bidet.

While it was an interesting “cultural experience,” I am going to keep my big shower and leave the bidets here.

Combining work and pleasure? No…!

by Darlene Wilson 
A funny thing happened to me on the way to the piazza. Okay… at the piazza. It was the morning of our first Italian quiz, approximately 7:10 a.m., and as dutiful new students of the language we crammed words and phrases into our brains before we slept, perchance to dream of les mots italiens (hang on that’s French)… parole italiane… (that’s italiano) …a.k.a. “Italian words.” We even used home-made cue cards to reinforce the key words and phrases that Giovanni introduced in class—hopeful that this quick study method would be the ticket to an A on the test.

With cappuccino and breakfast treat in hand we gazed across the piazza for…hmmm… about 10 seconds. “Ready to study?” I say to Shelley. Out came the cue cards.

As the cappuccino cooled nicely (I find it’s already lukewarm when served) we shuffled through the deck of cards: Prime Minister? Mario Monte. Or President? It’s hot! Fa bello! How are you? Com’e sta? Nice to meet you. Piacere. My name is…. Me chiamo, Darlene.

There was a stirring from the table next to us, then a chuckle. Two elderly gentlemen pointed and smiled. Are these ladies crazy? This time is not for work…it is for awakening…greeting the day and each other. Nothing can be SO important that you must interrupt this social time to work. Americani!

Ahhh… but they don’t know the aroma of a freshly earned “A.”

p.s. We’re pseudo-Americani!…known here as Canadese. ☺

Dots on a Map

by Chris Roark 
You won’t find Cagli, Italy brochures in the front window of your local travel agent’s office. As a matter of fact, when using Google Earth, it’s a barely visible “dot” on the northeastern side of Italy. And, when you’re actually in Cagli, the small dot feel is real – home, and all the things we are so familiar with in the U.S., feels a million miles away.

Yet, everywhere I turn, there are people wearing t-shirts, sunglasses, hats, shorts, and flip-flops with American flags, slogans, phrases, and logos. It seems the U.S. is quite popular with people in the Le Marche region of Italy. Maybe it’s a new fashion fad or trend. Maybe it’s been this way for a while. Or, maybe not.

No matter, the dissonance is real. One moment you are lost in time in a charming foreign land, the next, you are reminded of the massive influence we have on the rest of the world – even in those barely identifiable little dots on a map…