by Melinda Gallo

Italian and...Chinese

Today I went to a shop called "Via della Seta" (Silk Street). I've been wanting to go in because it's filled with Chinese silk items. Sometimes my own Chinese heritage decides to take a stand. I mean really...I can't just validate the Italian side all the time. I live here, I speak Italian, I eat Italian food...

I walked in and asked the woman, "Posso dare un'occhiata?" (Can I look around?). "Certo", she replied with a warm smile. She was an attractive Chinese woman with bangs and long straight hair dressed in a silk Chinese jacket.

I looked around and tried on a few scarves (you'd think that's all I buy, but really it's so cold here, you need a whole collection of them...besides, I realized that it's a nice way to add color to any outfit).

The woman told me which ones would look good on me because of my coloring. I asked her if she was Chinese and she was a bit startled. There are quite a few Japanese here and I just wanted to be sure. "Anch'io...ho delle origini cinesi e italiane." (Me too...I have Chinese and Italian origins.) But, I explained that I'm American.

She took a long hard look at me, studying my face, and finally told me that she never would've guessed. She just thought I was Italian. And, she said, I never would've guessed American since you don't have an American accent. I was very flattered. I don't like sticking out like a sore thumb, but I told her that the Italians all know I'm not one of them...my eyes, my nose...and the accent is the clencher. It's a little Florentine, but a little different, meaning foreign.

"Mi chiamo Susana" she told me. She asked me to stop by again so we can chat again. She said it was nice meeting someone with similar origins (even though mine are a little farther back than hers), but I agreed. It was nice talking to someone who had a cultural background similar to mine. I'm sure we had very different lives since she comes from China and I come from America, but it'd be interesting for me to learn more about the Chinese as well. It's a part of myself that I haven't yet learned much about (except through my Chinese-American family).

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