Home Cured Prosciutto

This weekend I went to Arezzo to visit a friend and his family. I’ve spent the last several years of my life living in college dorms, decrepit rental homes, and basements. So I was very excited to be invited into a home with a jacuzzi bath tub! There was also a bidet, which I’m sorry Italians, I just will not use.

We spent most of our time with the family out in the countryside, but also spent part of the weekend in the city center. Several celebrations for first communions and weddings, two important Catholic milestones, were being held all around the city. We didn’t get to see the bride, but the groom wore a silk top hat and a coat with tails.

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Getting ready for a wedding!

Sunday afternoon, my friend, his father, and I watched the Monaco Grand Prix via spotty, satellite tv. Though I was certainly impressed by the track, the blowouts, and the speed; I couldn’t help but think I was watching fancy Nascar. The comparison didn’t improve when the head of the household fell asleep mid way, just like my dad does during Nascar.

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View from the Prato park

I was treated to some very fine meals by my hosts. The simplest and yet most satisfying dish was plain, unsalted bread with home cured prosciutto. The only preservative used was salt with pepper for taste. Though the family only spoke Italian, and communication was often difficult, they were anxious to teach me about the culture of the Italian kitchen. They were also very interested to learn about American culinary traditions, such as the famous biscuits and gravy.

Life is beautiful

Historic square of Arezzo

The piazza pictured above can be seen in stills from the movie, La Vita è Bella. The 1997 film was filmed in Arezzo and many places around the city can be recognized in the movie. And at the closing of this weekend, I have to agree, that life truly is beautiful.

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Let’s Address This

At the Universita per Stranieri di Perugia, classes are not only meant to teach you the language, but also about culture and structure of Italy. This includes topics such as the introduction of democracy into Italy in 1946, Italian economy and exports (FIAT – Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino)decreasing birth rates, and other important issues. Though I have found no evidence that Italy deals with higher prevalence than other western cultures, our teachers addressed the increasing problem of eating disorders among young Italians.

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San Giorgio – a young girl with a braid

I’m twenty years old and spent eleven years learning classical ballet. The world of classical ballet is a place where a few pounds or inches can destroy careers. Though I would never give up that experience for anything, I spent my early teens agonizing over my weight. Only this year have I realized that what I’ve been measuring my “ideal weight” against, is completely bogus. I remember being 146 lbs. and always think if I just worked harder and dieted better, I’d get there again. That memory is from five years ago, when I was fifteen, and three inches shorter. Not completely unrealistic, but really, Lila, you’d never eat a french fry again.

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Arch of Titus

A psychologist friend of mine specialized in eating disorders and preventative intervention. In her research, predictors of eating disorders can be observed in kindergarten age children. While children are learning to add 17 and 8 (numbers too big to use fingers!) western culture is teaching children unrealistic physical expectations, i.e. Barbie.

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The Ponte Vecchio

Maintaining proper weight through diet and exercise – is just that. The goal should not be to fit into a smaller number pair of jeans. We should be more concerned about our health than our fashionably knobby knees.

Coming Home with White Girl Dreads

The above monument is called the Altare della Patria or Altar of the Fatherland and was built in celebration of the Italian king, Victor Emmanuel. I like this photo because you can actually sense the size of this monstrosity. The horse and his rider are fearfully large in real life.

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Roman Ghetto

This week I’ve been trying to get things in line for my return to the States. I need to find a new apartment for the coming school year and send in paperwork to start working again in the Dillons pharmacy. It’s sobering to see the end of my time abroad approaching. That being said, I still have two months to learn and explore.

I’ve set in my mind that May is a month for studying and June is a month for traveling. I’ll be visiting Puglia and Sicilia before a brief farewell tour of Italy and my flight to Ireland. I’ll be in Ireland for four days before returning to Kansas on the 12th of July.

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An eerily beautiful statue cresting above the tree line.

There is one thing that has been preoccupying my mind about coming home. In Italy, it’s not uncommon for me to receive random, neither complimentary or derogatory, comments about my hair. People in general just seem to find it strange or exotic. With recent conversations about cultural appropriation in the United States, I feel that “white people dreads” have become much more controversial since I came to Italy in January.

I got dreads in 2010 when I was fourteen years old. My hair is curly and frizzy, defies gravity, and was an everyday pain. My goal in getting dreads was to destroy my hair while maintaining it’s length. Dreads were the best solution to maximize the usefulness of curls and frizz while creating something more manageable.

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Baby Lila and Baby Dreads

Recently, there has been an assumption that dreads culturally “belong” to those of African descent. Usually this is proceeded by statements that dreadlocks naturally occur among this racial group and not in others. This ignores the fact that all hair types can form dreadlocks. Once that argument is deflated, it is posed that dreads are historically African. This argument is also based upon false assumptions. Dreads were historically worn by Asians, Africans, and Europeans.

But if we were all honest, this argument (made by a white women) seems to state that cultural appropriation doesn’t exist. I do believe that cultural appropriation occurs. I just don’t know if demonizing your local pothead as a racist is the appropriate application of the phrase.

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Lower Right: Junk Food

Cultural appropriation, as I understand the phrase, signifies when an exploitative culture adopts characteristics of an exploited culture without recognition of origin or traditional usage. I think a good example of cultural appropriation goes to our beloved Katy Perry. Songs can be inspired by Japanese culture and performers are completely free to perform while wearing kimonos. But being an obvious person of affluence, it is in bad taste that the back up dancers were caucasian and performing rather mocking choreography instead of more traditional dances.

In conclusion, not everything is cultural appropriation. But I must also admit that white people are not great at the cultural appreciation. We are much more likely to appropriate through a sense of entitlement fostered by generations of insensitivity.