Travel Log 3: “Betwixt and Between…so this is liminality” by Jim Webb. Perugia, Italy

My first glimpse into life in Perugia is what I expected without knowing Italian.  A confusing very animated man pointing at various items in our apartment and then leaving without saying anything in English, our landlord.  But, I made it and after a few days to get acclimate things are going well.  I feel like I am on-track in separating from my native culture.  A few things still feel a little foreign to me like needing to ask the waiter or waitress for the check and not leaving a tip at anytime.  I feel as if I am defiantly an open minded person already and was not so deeply rooted in my traditions that the small changes were very upsetting or anything like that.  I did expect some things to change but nothing has been very drastic or life altering as of yet.

After reading Slimbach’s chapter six I do have a good understanding of the double edged sword that is communitas.  Just looking back at my experiences abroad so far I have an understanding of how communitas can be a double edged sword.  While you are immersed in a different culture you are not going through the experience alone.  As a result, I think people that are experiencing the same things group together to help protect any vulnerabilities they have.  I know first hand how daunting a simple task can be when you are in a different culture and the people speak a foreign language.  I think some of my strengths that will help me avoid the double edged sword of comminutas is my curiosity and independence.  I love to explore and in doing so I am getting more exposure to the culture.  I am also very fine with being independent, if my roommates have class or don’t want to do something that isn’t going to stop me from doing it.  However, in doing so I am not completely ignoring my communitas, we do a lot of things together and the common language is defiantly a benefit.  Slimbach writes about reaching this stage and going down two paths one where you seek refuge in your fellow classmates that understand your culture and the other is to fully embrace the new culture you are in.  I think I am defiantly more confident around my classmates because of our shared culture and language but it hasn’t stopped me from going around town and attempting to interact with the local people.  Just today I asked a butcher what went into something he was making.  He gave me a small piece and after I had taken a bite he said it was pig head and skin from the arms, and it was very chewy.

Being in the liminal phase also has it challenges that must be overcome to establish an identity within the new culture.  Small simple things are mainly what I have encountered so far such as asking the waiter for the check or not leaving any tip.  Another challenge that I’m not used to in my small town is people asking for money on the streets.  Some people are really forward in their approaches, sometimes they will try to give you something and if you touch it they try to make you pay for it.  Its pretty common to see and I’m adjusting to it but I’m still kind of nervous when I see someone doing that.  Another challenge of the liminal phase is learning how to act like you belong.  The first few days you could very easily tell who the Americans were; we walk quickly, clothing in general, and our choice of shoes.  I am still not good at dressing like I live here but that may come in time.  A good way to mix cultures is to speak to the locals.  This way you can find out better places to eat that might be less touristy or just off the beaten path enough that you would never find them.  Language is a real barrier here but luckily enough people are better at speaking English than I am at speaking Italian.  I have spoken to a few locals about places to go but I wouldn’t say I had “cultivated a network of close-knit and supportive friends” yet.  I do have one friend that is from around Amsterdam and he is studying at my school.

icebergThe picture I chose to accompany this is the classic ice berg metaphor.  I chose this because I believe
it accurately shows that I have only scratched the surface of what I hope to explore and understand by the end of the semester.  There is still so much I don’t know and haven’t experienced.


One thought on “Travel Log 3: “Betwixt and Between…so this is liminality” by Jim Webb. Perugia, Italy

  1. The language barrier is always very challenging but you will start to pick up on phrases and words as time passes. I know because I am in the same boat, living with a host family. I think you have a great attitude about doing the things you want to do even if others will not accompany you. There is a tendency to cling onto the people who are similar to you but a vital part of the study abroad experience is learning how to be independent. Keep exploring on your own and doing the things you want to do because this is also a way to meet people who share your interests!


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