Over the past few days, I've knitted two scarves. Now, I'm working on a hat.
Scarves are all the rage in Italy; they come in every color you can imagine and people wear them all year long. Wool scarves are for winter, and normal ones are for the rest of the year.
Milan is known as the fashion capital of the world, so one might think that scarves are about to become a new trend throughout the world. However, in thinking so, one would be wrong. Scarves may or may not become fashionable in the future, but for Italians they serve an important function: they protect people from colpo d'aria, or in English a "hit of air."
Like many Americans, when I first heard about colpo d'aria I was dumbfounded. Could such a civilized people really have an established common fear of breezes? (They feel the same way about us when it comes to capital punishment: Could a first-world country really still be doing that?) And the answer is yes. Despite sweltering summer heat, air conditioning is rare in Italy. People do not use ice cubes. If you open the windows of a hot bus, there are some old ladies who will throw fits about it, even during the summer.
During an intolerable summer night, I insisted upon having a fan to cool me off so that I would be able to sleep. My companion was a girl from southern Italy, and she made me position the fan so that it was only facing my bed (instead of the whole room). In the morning she let me know that it absolutely needed to be readjusted--the air bounced off of the wall behind my bed, onto another wall, and then towards her bed. It wasn't very strong, but she could feel it. And that was enough.
When people would express concern for me (I usually don't like having things around my neck), I politely explained to them that as an American, I was born immune to colpo d'aria. "But, really?" they would ask. "Mhmm," I would assure them that nobody in America is ever affected by it. Ever.
I'm not so sure about that anymore. The same companion who didn't like our fan explained to me how colpo d'aria really works. She claimed it was scientifically proven, even. You see, it isn't so much about being hit by air, per se. It's more about sudden change of your body's temperature. And I've heard of that before, even in the States. So while some old ladies take the whole thing much too far (and my companion agreed that they do), the idea really is not so far-fetched.
In fact, I think I've gotten a colpo d'aria lately. I am sick! And I haven't been around sick people, that I know of. And it's summer, for goodness sake. But I have noticed big changes in the temperature lately. And I have been in and out of air conditioning, and in and out of the pool (mmmm... In-N-Out...), and slept with a fan blowing directly on me most nights (see my post about sunburns).
(I bet some people would really think it was funny that I brought an Italian superstition home with me.)
But hit of air or no, I woke up sick as a dog this morning. I faithfully pressed my snooze button every five minutes for an entire hour. I wasn't sure that I wanted to go to church. Or even leave my bed, for that matter.
I did, though. I made it to Sacrament Meeting in the middle of the announcements. I picked up a program and went to sit on a pew in the middle of the room. I sat down and opened my program only to discover that I was printed in the program as the first speaker. Oh boy. I had no idea that I was supposed to be speaking. They had asked me a few months ago to speak 'sometime in July' but had never told me the date or topic.
I got up and walked to the exit, and showed the program to my mother because she'd joked about me speaking today. We giggled for a few seconds and then I walked up and sat on the stand with the other girl who was speaking today. She told me that she hoped I had a lot to say because she had timed herself speaking slowly and her talk was less than ten minutes long. I told her that I had no idea that I was supposed to be speaking, and she looked at me with wide eyes.
My mom signed to me from the pews: "Should I call your sister and have her e-mail Duchess' talk to me, and go home and print it for you?" I grinned, and shook my head no. (You can read about why it was funny here, in Lavish's blog.)
So I said a little prayer for help, and outlined a talk while they finished the announcements and we sang the opening hymn. And then after the Sacrament I was supposed to speak. I got up and gave an amazing talk. It lasted just over fourteen minutes. Another guy from our ward is leaving on a mission and it was his
Of the 250ish people that were there listening to my talk, over a dozen stopped me in the hallways to compliment me, or thank me for speaking. It was all just one more example of how when we pray God listens and really does help us; before I prayed I really had no idea what I was going to talk about.
During the second hour of church, I always teach a lesson on the Old Testament to my Primary class (of 9-10 year old kids). Today there were six kids instead of four. We talked about Naomi and Ruth, and about following Christ's example and being examples for other people. My kids are so much fun. I love 'em. (I'm going to be such a good mom someday.)
Anyway, that was my day.