25 June 2008

Guest Blog - Diary Musings

Another fine essay from Laurie Huff, sharing an international perspective from where she's currently living in Albania. I think this is my favorite one yet!

Many people here in Albania use a day-per-page diary for planning and writing notes. In fact, the people in my husband's office gave him one as a welcoming gift! He brought it home for me, since I am the one who is nuts over calendars and he is more of an Outlook man. I was really hoping it would be in English and Albanian so I could learn the days of the week and the months, but it is Italian. Which is no big surprise since Albania is only 60 miles across the water from Italy and we get a lot of Italian products here. The diary has the days and months in Italian, English, French, German, and Spanish. In the back is a great map of Italy, and I'm sure we'll be going there sooner or later so it will help plan our trip. (Did you know that Naples is on the WEST coast of Italy? Well now you do. For some reason I always thought it was on the EAST coast. But this map set me straight!)

This Italian diary is an interesting glimpse into some aspects of Italian culture. One feature is that every day has a corresponding saint. For example, the saint for today is Saint Luigi Gonzaga, whoever that is. Of course that is in Italian, so I might recognize the name if it were in English. The saint on my birthday is Saint Edoardo (Saint Edward I'm assuming). I think this is a pretty neat feature, and I can picture people celebrating their town's patron saint, or whichever saint has particular meaning for them.

There is a page for every work day. Saturday and Sunday are together on one page, Saturday at the top half and Sunday on the bottom half. Work days have the time printed on the lines from 8 to 20 (8am to 8pm). And interestingly, days during the week that are a holiday get a little less than a half page rather than their own full page. Which seems like it would screw up the layout for the weekends but somehow does not. And for much of August, regular weekdays have only a half page each. Which is telling because apparently most things shut down in Italy during August because that is when most people go on vacation.

It is interesting to me the sense of national identity that can be drawn from using a book like this. Holidays, vacations, festival days and the geography of the country are all here. By following the dates in this book I feel like I have tapped into the national happenings. I can imagine people in Italy having a certain sense of synchronization with everyone else, aware of when things are happening.

I own day per page diary books from two other countries where I have lived, Russia and Nepal, and they also give a glimpse into local culture. For example, in the front of the Russian diary along with conversion charts and the zodiac signs, there is a chart for a person's weight and alcohol intake, and the number of hours it takes to metabolize the alcohol and become sober (and safe to drive, since Russia has a zero-tolerance drunk-driving law).

For some reason I feel more connected to the people around me when I look at the same information in my diary as they are looking at in theirs. I wish I knew people here well enough to ask to look through their book and see what they have written there. The joining of personal identity within the framework of the national identity. Hey, I think I just came up with an idea for a PhD thesis!

1 comment:

  1. I have to say that every time I see someone with a planner or calendar or sorts, I always want to ask them how they use it, what they have in it, how it's organized, etc. But I tend to think that strangers would not appreciate my love for planners. =)

    Thanks for the great post!