“But, what’s going on between these two places?” my Italian teacher responds quizzically. “There’s something strange linking your home state and Italy. We’ve got another Minnesotan student here who also fell in love with an Italian!”
After arriving early on my first day (it was just me and a German woman #typical), I’m asked to introduce myself to my new classmates. They’re from China (the majority), Korea, Kazakhstan, Georgia (the nation not U.S. state), Russia, Switzerland — and then there’s a guy from Bemidji, Minnesota of all places.
“You must know each other!” they all chime in. “You’re like twins!” someone else declares. “But Kevin is really tall and muscular,” another clarifies. “Kevin è molto bravo,” Felix, from Korea, adds.
I won’t meet this mythical Minnesotan for another week as he’s away on vacation, but until he returns, I fill the role of Helpful Native English Speaker for Felix. While presenting his sentiments to the class, he will occasionally stop mid-sentence to ask me for assistance translating or deciphering a word and/or gesture from English, Korean, or Pseudoitalian to Italian.
This is an often impossible but always hilarious task which Kevin reportedly performed quite nobly. “Brava, brava, intelligente, come Kevin,” the endlessly affable Korean reflects.
Meanwhile, as the only U.S. student, I’m also aware that I might get jumped on the playground. There have already been several Trump jokes injected into our lessons by my new international friends.
Donald was brought up ironically when we were discussing some vocabulary around the word pace (peace) and North Korea. Then, we’re talking about the difference between the words famoso and popolare; you can be famous but not popular, like Trump, per my Kazakh friend’s example. Another day, we’re talking about how politicians do whatever they want; “Like Trump,” someone else offers.
When my teacher refers to my president, I’m like — No, no, please I don’t claim him, don’t point at me — and he replies, “All the Americans I meet say that. ‘He’s not mine.’”
Despite my best efforts to avoid a fight on day one, I narrowly evade a brawl on my tram ride home. I’m staring out the window diligently, making sure I don’t miss my stop, when I hear vicious swearing in front of me (those Italian words I already knew) and see a tangled mess of sweaty, swinging fists. A gentleman in his early sixties is scuffling with a guy in his twenties.
In truly heroic fashion, I jump out of my seat and flee, clinging to various bars and handles as I stumble toward the back of the tram. The air is pulsing with testosteroni as it soaks up that arrabbiata sauce; a hush befalls the spectators.
Someone more respectable than I intervenes, putting himself in between the riff-raff. They continue to shout at each other until the younger guy is persuaded to disembark the tram. Upon his departure, the older man tries to break free of the mediator’s clutches, continuing to holler; the other dude yells through the window and pounds his fist against the metal.
Perhaps the old guy spat a racial slur at the young guy; perhaps the young guy tried to rob the old guy; perhaps this was just friendly banter about yesterday’s soccer game. Fortunately, it appears that they both suffered only bruised egos in the end.
All I know for sure is that there was at least one dishonorable person there that day, as my first instinct post-escape was to Snapchat the developing situation. And now we go live to an eyewitness in Milan who’s doing an anthropological study of Italian transit behavior, Anderson Cooper announces, cutting off Wolf Blitzer’s analysis of the royal wedding.
Even if the silver fox didn’t reach out to me, I don’t want my fellow Snappers to get bored with all my wine and pasta loops. A “Doesn’t the mouse-voice filter make this fight seem almost cute?” snap would have spiced up our streaks.
I resisted the urge, for the record, and instead snapped my gelato that night, which was procured after exiting the tram quite flustered and walking down the wrong road for a few blocks.