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Interview with Cristina

Posted by on Friday, June 2, 2017 in Blog posts.


Cefalù is a small town and though I also come from a small town, Mint Hill, North Carolina, with only 23,000 inhabitants (Mint Hill), Cefalù is even smaller, with about 14,000 inhabitants. I have kept this in mind, as I have thought to myself again and again about why I hadn’t met much young people in this town. For my interview, I wanted to find someone close to my own age, 19, to learn about what it was like to grow up in Sicily and to live somewhere like Cefalù now, in their young adulthood. My interviewee was a young lady of 20 by the name of Cristina, who works as a storekeeper and will begin attending university (hopefully) in Cefalù in the fall semester. I walked into the store she was attending on a whim because I saw a pretty, friendly face peering behind the counter as I came by. Cristina happily agreed to my request for an interview and our interview was honestly more of a conversation than an interview, really. She was truly so sweet and a joy to interview! 🙂

Cristina did not actually grow up in Cefalù. She was born in Milan. This was curious to me because I wondered what it would be like to move from Milan, which I am told is quite industrial, to somewhere like Cefalù, which is slow-moving and simple. In fact, she didn’t really live in Cefalù full-time until she was 16, when her grandmother fell ill and her parents moved there to be with her. Since then, her parents have separated and she had to decide whether to live with her father and mother and while this was a conflict when she was young, she told me, she now loves Cefalù so very much and would like nothing more than to be able to stay and live here forever.

When I met Cristina she had been working at the gift shop for just one month and was a recent high school graduate. She went to the high school for classics, where she studied languages, in particularly dead languages such as Ancient Greek. She studied English from the time she was 3-years-old and also studied Spanish for 3 years in school. We spoke for a bit in our broken Spanish to each other (hers much, much better than mine). She even gave me a little lesson in Italian and taught me how to introduce myself in the language. And she told me she felt her English wasn’t any good, which I completely disagreed with. She lamented that the English Italians are taught in school is more theory-based and proper and that she had trouble with her English (which I can promise you was so very eloquent). She began university at Palermo as a psychology major, but due to the commute (she was having to get up at 4:00 am to take the train), she was going to switch to the university in Cefalù.

Cristina had such a happiness about her and loved her job, even in its simplicity. For example, I worked a similar customer service job as her in high school, but it could be very trying. I worked in a grocery store and would interact with many different kinds of people and simply put, not every interaction was pleasant. Cristina said she loved to be working in such a job, in her youth. She told me how she loved to meet people and share a smile, stories, or small talk with them. And she just loves to meet people from around the world, so even though she is living in a small town like Cefalù, she is living in many places through the people she meets.

Cristina’s optimism carried beyond her job. Like I wrote before, I wondered how someone could move from Milan to Cefalù and be happy, but she said that living in Cefalù for her is about living as a human. She said that she felt humanity and closeness to people in Cefalù, but in Milan everything was about success and the success came before family and friendships. She said in Cefalù life moves slower, in contrast to the frenetic Milan she once knew and that she is okay with this peaceful pace. I found this interesting because in the United States, at her age, young people are in college and are told that they must work and work and work to reach a certain societally-acceptable level of success in their youth. Here it seems that success isn’t quantified by wealth or degrees, but by relationships. And that’s a beautiful thing and a thing I don’t find to be impractical. Cristina underscored to me that we only have one life and that life isn’t about work, but about people.

My interview with Cristina was a very happy and informative one and we planned to get coffee together the next day. She talked to me with such ease, our conversation was that of old friends, and I am so sad that I didn’t meet her until the end of my time in Cefalù. She taught me something important, what I wrote before about success. The Italians appear to have a greater understanding of life than us Americans. Maybe I am falling into the cliché of the “grass being greener on the other side,” but I don’t think so. I will miss Cefalù so, so much and this short trip has made me want to come back and study abroad in Italy for a whole semester (so hopeful). I want to take the ethos I have learned in Italy back home with me and maybe then I will learn to slow down, to smell the roses, to concentrate on humanity and not the meaningless troubles that stress me so. I am so thankful for Cristina for her wisdom and her time.

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