Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Culture Shock!!

Yesterday I went grocery shopping for the first time with my roommate Alyssa and our friend Alex at the COOP, the equivalent of a Market Basket or Stop and Shop here in Perugia.  There is a small store right near our apartment, but we needed to do a big basic shopping to stalk up our shelves.  Now, this bigger store is down the hill of Perugia a ways.  The only way to get there without walking for 45 minutes is to take the MiniMetro, which is essentially a small tram that rides on a rail up and down the hill.  It's kind of like a mini roller-coaster through the hilly city.  The three of us didn't do any research regarding which stop to get off before we hopped on, so we ended up riding all the way to the bottom.  We had a feeling that we took it too far so we got out and asked a police officer where the COOP was but he didn't speak a lick of English.  Luckily, he was chit-chatting with a restaurant waiter who did understand our dilemma and acted as our translator.  I find myself becoming annoyed with the language barrier*.  We ended up having to backtrack 3 stops back UP the hill.  The officer motioned that it would be safe for us to walk (trust me officer, I wasn't planning on it!) so he escorted us back on the tram. 

We finally made it to the COOP!  Once we got there, I instinctively went for a shopping cart, however here you have to pay for them.  Alyssa and I figured that a basket for each of us would suffice.  In my head, I thought back to my kitchen at home and all the basics.  On my budget, though, getting ALL the essentials for every possible cooking occasion will be impossible.  I figured I'd have to stick to the absolute bare essentials for now: butter, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, onion, tomatoes, bread, salami, cheese, pasta, sauce, lettuce, eggs etc.  After a while, my basket was getting extremely heavy and started to crack! Alyssa and I each had an overflowing basket, except once we unpacked back home it turned out to not be much at all unfortunately.  So, we made it up just about every aisle and got into line.  A nice Italian man let Alyssa and I go ahead of him as he saw us struggling with lifting our baskets.  In the meantime, Alex hadn't gotten a basket when we first arrived so she had a pile of groceries in her arms.  Two older Italian men asked if they could help her and they filled an empty basket with all her groceries for her.  How nice!  When it was my turn at the register, I felt like an idiot.  For any piece of produce, you have to put it on a scale and punch in a number which will assign the correct price for the weight of the item.  Well, I successfully did that for everything except the bananas.  I tried to say that I didn't really need them, but the cashier was already up and out of her seat going to get the sticker.  Seriously? The line was into the middle of the store and all eyes were on the 3 American girls who knew nothing about grocery store etiquette.  Awesome!  Also, you have to pay for plastic bags in Italy, so I had brought along a reusable bag, which I had to filled to the brim and beyond just to carry my things home.  So, from there we lugged our stuff bag into the MiniMetro and rode that back to the top of the hill and proceeded to walk home from the station (which mind you is still uphill). 

By the end of this experience, we were such a hot mess!  Refusing to take the stairs, we rode our elevator up one floor to our apartment-haha.  It was such a traumatizing experience for Alyssa and I that we went to the American bar near our apartment and got a drink to go and had it with our dinner.  Our plan was that we were going to make grilled chicken and salad.  After that afternoon I was NOT in the mood to start cooking.  I felt like my mom after a long day and switching dinner plans at the last minute.  I totally appreciate that now-love you Mom! So instead we had bread with salami, cheese, and olive oil.  Not a bad second choice-absolutely delicious!  I could eat that every day if I had to. 

This experience was the only bit of culture shock I have yet to experience, minus the obvious language barrier.  *We started our intensive week of Italian yesterday and already I can speak a little and order what I want in a coffee bar.  Vorrei un cappuccino e un cornetto cioccolato...I would like a cappuccino and a chocolate croissant.  This is a standard breakfast for Italians. Of course I don't mind this at all, but I think my love handles will start to hate me!

Keep checking in with me! There's much more to come.  I have an exciting story that I will share with you tomorrow!!  I'm not here a week yet and there is so much to take advantage of and share with y'all.  So many things here are just so different than in America.  My Italian professor said something very intriguing today, "I think the Italian way of life is more human" and I couldn't agree more! 


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