Monday, June 7, 2010

Being Tolerant

We had a late night supper one night while we were in Lucca last week in a small trattoria that had a few tables nestled together outside on a little piazza.

One of the things about Europe that is different than America is that when you sit down at your table to eat, it is yours for the evening. Servers pretty much leave you alone (unless they know you are Americans tend to always be in a hurry to get to the next place, wherever that may be) unless you call them over.

Our waiter this evening was typical. We only spoke Italian to him yet he would only speak English to us. We weren't swayed to change; neither was he.

And so it carried on throughout the first half of (a rather horrid, actually) our meal. He would occasionally come over and speak English. We would answer in Italian.

The next table over was getting all of his attention. They were French and he was having a ball talking to them.

Now my husband, who becomes European the moment he steps on a plane, was miffed. People normally love his textbook (versus my street version) Italian and will usually answer him in either Italian or German. They'll chat away using one of the 200 words that he knows (200 words supposedly makes you fluent...and you are, unless you want to have a real conversation that involves something other than 'where can I catch a taxi?') and by the end of our evening, he has a new best friend.

It's just the way it goes.

But our server wasn't playing the game.

Near the end of our 2 hour long meal (rushed for Italy), and while we were pondering whether to go the espresso vs. vin santo route, it happened.

Our server asked why we were in Italy.

That guy that I like so much started chatting and mentioned music. And our server smiled.

Turns out he is from Poland and now lives in Italy as a French Literature major at the University of Pisa.

The conversation changed dramatically when Chopin came up. Suddenly all the people sitting near us became a part of the conversation and it was happening all around us in French and Italian and Polish and German and finally English. No judging of who understood (or didn't understand) what...just a bunch of people having a friendly and animated conversation about how Chopin is buried in France, but his heart is entombed in Poland.

Gruesome? Kinda. But listening to it unfold was so awesome and made me realize, once again, how thankful I am to be able to see, with open eyes, so many other cultures. And also, that my children lack so much in their education...not because of their teachers, but because our educational system is missing the big picture.

And that makes me sad, which makes me want to write a letter. Like that'll help.


We sat there for another hour, talking (and listening) with everyone. Just a bunch of people from all different places, not rushing, sitting on a piazza sipping vin santo and eating cantucci while talking in bits and pieces of languages about schools in different countries and healthcare and the war.

It was a great evening. Aside from the food. Well, the bistecca ala Fiorentina was delicious, but the cannellini beans with assorted fish parts was almost more than I could handle. As was the polenta with assorted fish parts. Heck, anything with assorted fish parts is just a bad idea.


(flower from my garden, picked by Brian. glass from IKEA. Just in case you were wondering.)


  1. Are you trying to be tolerant of Polish people? Remember, you're one of them. Tim did the research, and it's more Polish than German. Don't try to hide behind the Italian part!

  2. There's no German on that side, just Polish...



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