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Pausa

wirthby Emily Wirth

Pausa. A break or hold. A time for the citizens of Cagli to kick back their feet and relax. In the traditional American sense, this is also lunchtime. As a working American, it is my dream to have a two hour lunch break. I would close the office and make my way home for a nap, returning hours later refreshed and rejuvenated; if I did not want to return to work, I would simply keep the office closed until the next day. While taking classes in this beautiful culture, it is my ambition to eat lunch, take a cat nap for the remainder of pausa, then return to my studies when ready. However, first I must set off on an adventure to find somewhere able to feed my empty belly.

Before we arrive we are informed the bars in Cagli are the only businesses which remain open during pausa—they are called bars, but are more comparable to an American cafe in the sense that they serve food, snacks, coffee, pastries, and of course alcoholic beverages. It is the first day here and I walk into a promising shop. In the food display next to the cash register (resembling the pastry case at a Starbucks) there are premade panini and foccacia sandwiches and brioche pastries. The sandwiches are small, about the size of a 6 inch sub from Subway, and are only decorated with an unidentified meat (although if you are lucky it may come adorned with cheese or tomatoes). Since I do not know the language to ask for cheese and vegetables, and I do not know the cultural expectations as far as the appropriateness of my asking for lettuce, mayonnaise and honey mustard, I point to the most promisingly familiar sandwich and say, “questo per favore. Gracia.” “This one please,” then the Spanish word for “thank you.” Oops! I am finally given the chance to show off the only four Italian words I know and I messed it up! I am more hopeful about my next speaking experience and promise myself I will improve with time.

The sandwich turns out to be quite enjoyable. The meat is salty and does not require any condiments, and the bread tastes more like a biscuit. However, I can see I will soon get sick of this diet and am worried about how this change in eating habit will affect me physically (at home I am in the habit of supplementing foods high in vitamins and minerals to stay my leg cramps). The sensible person would just go to the grocery store and make lunch every day. This person has never been to an Italian grocery store. Not only is it also closed during pausa and open while we are in class, but the stores contain Italian food and this food is labeled in Italian. American milk, bread and butter are not the same as Italian milk, bread and butter. What is a girl to do?

The American reading this may comment on how inefficient pausa is to the community. However, the Italians do not think this way. Pausa is a way of life, and instead of adjusting our study schedule around the Italian lifestyle, we have taken our American school schedule with us to Italy and expected the country to accommodate us. Why should I expect the shops to be open during pausa, a tradition dating back hundreds of years before my country was founded? Furthermore, profit does not seem to be as important as quality of work to the citizens of Cagli (I think of the famous Italian shoes and hand bags we Americans so covet). I know after a few hours of working I am not operating to the best of my abilities, and my work slowly loses quality. Would we not all benefit from the integration of pausa in our lives? Do not we need a break or hold from our busy, materialistic activities? My best choice is to adjust my cultural norms to those of my surroundings; only then can I reap the benefits of my time here.


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