by Melinda Gallo

Our first guests have arrived

My sister, her husband, and my niece JJ arrived on Tuesday afternoon. We sat outside on the terrace of a bar, waiting for them. It's the first time they've been to Florence while I'm living here. Only my mom ever came to Florence to visit me when I was living here in 1997-1999.

I found them a great loft apartment in Piazza della Signoria next to Palazzo Vecchio. It's great because it is spacious, has a lot of light, has a great view of the Palazzo Vecchio and the Duomo (from the shower in the bathroom), and is right downtown so it's easier for them to visit the town and go back home whenever they want.

My sister is full Chinese (we have different fathers and the same mother) and so people don't automatically believe that we're related. It's quite interesting since most people look at us both and say that I look more like my niece than my sister. Probably because my niece is half Chinese like me.

I used to hate it when Italians would talk to me in English in shops and restaurants, but now that I'm with my sister, my first inclination was to let them since my sister doesn't speak Italian.

After a few interactions with some of the sales people, I realize now that their English can sometimes be a little limited and when they get stuck, they are grateful that I speak Italian. It's interesting because I used to think that they didn't want me to speak Italian, but in reality, I think it's just a habit for them to speak in English to anyone who doesn't "look Italian."

I now speak to everyone in Italian, but am not bothered if they speak to me in English initially. In the end, they often ask me how to translate certain words in English or just talk to me so that I will eventually translate for my guests.

I took my sister and niece to the place I get my haircut and they were surprised when I told them that I was American and that my sister didn't speak any Italian. They knew I was foreign, but didn't really know from where. They asked me to assist while they questioned my sister about what she wanted for herself and for her daughter.

It's an interesting angle that I have now about being in Florence. I used to always speak to people in Italian and feel like I had to force it and now I realize that they weren't judging my Italian, but rather my face.

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