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I have traded nationalities. For one week, I tried in vain to become European.
I wandered the plazas of Rome, the alleys of Florence, the canals of Venice, the streets of Milan searching for my inner Italian. I shunned such dastardly American tourist pitfalls of fanny packs, white sneakers, and Hawaiian shirts in favor of a black jacket, black skinny jeans, and black Puma sneakers. Gelato became my obsession, the Metro my suave transportation, and the Euro my currency. I was determined to make this self-assured, chic country fall in love with my assumed masquerade.
But alas, what American can truly give up their own brassy nationalism or materialistic pride? In truth, though I learned some Italian before the trip, my most useful phrase became without a doubt: parla inglese? I succumbed to hopelessly touristy restaurants with menus in five languages, relished finding an English language movie on Italian TV and even found Rocky Balboa’s face in a Vatican mural. And unlike a native, I marveled at the art and architecture encapsulated in everyday life, captivated by such a long history that I as an American had never known. But maybe it was my utter conspicuousness that allowed me to become so enthralled in the grace of Michelangelo’s pure white Pieta or the subtle mysticism of algae covered Venetian canals at night. I could appreciate Italy’s sophisticated charm because of my own perpendicular culture.
In the end, try as I might, I am still unabashedly American. After all what Italian can enjoy a finely prepared BigMac as much as I can?