Hi friends! This is the first time in a month that I have been able to sit down, relax, and write without falling asleep first! So much has happened and I wish I could write about it all! After leaving Paestum I worked at a wonderful one week camp in Florence and the following week vacationed there with friends from home and UF…we basically brought the gator nation to Florence. So many crazy stories and adventures from that trip, but I think my facebook album does a pretty good job telling the story… http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1934421875905.2097090.1103040137
Now for the past two weeks I have been in Boltiere, a small town in Bergamo about 40 minutes from Milan, and it has been the best two weeks of my life in Italy yet!!! Many tutors say you can have a good group of kids, a good camp director, good co-tutors, or a good host fam. Maybe you can have 2/4, but to have all 4 is rare. I can confidently say that I not only had all 4, but every single factor exceeded my expectations.
After living in a convent for a week and a hotel for three it was so nice to be welcomed into an Italian family both in Florence and in Boltiere. Though I have missed the freedom of living in the hotel, living with both host families has been an incredible yet different experience!
Of course number 1 on my list! It wasn’t until living with a host family that I learned how particular the Italian culture is with food. For example, hot pastas are only eaten in the winter while cold pastas are eaten in the summer (for us Americans, we make cold pasta salad as an appetizer for dinner anytime of the year). All I have wanted to eat since being here is homemade tortellini or gnocchi, but both are winter dishes…grr. But o man is the food good! Homemade meatballs, fresh seafood salad, grilled calamari skewers at an Italian BBQ, it’s ALL good! I even made a homemade Nutella Torta with my Boltiere fam! First time baking in Italy…I was in HEAVEN! I want the recipes for everything, but of course they are a FAMILY SECRET!
However, as great as the food is, I am plumping up. It’s very difficult not having much control over what and when I eat. So used to healthy eating habits back home and that goes out the window when Italians just want to feed you carbs after carbs. If I eat light one day, I am accused of “eating like a bird” and they want to rush me to the hospital because I have a “fever”. But now that my knees are getting better, I have begun running again. Not a lot, but enough to afford the pasta, pizza, pasta, gelato diet for a few more weeks.
CAFE and ESPRESSO
How many Stabucks are in Italy??…ZERO! And that’s the way it should be. My Boltiere family feels very strongly that American coffee is not real coffee, a statement I now agree with. I have become addicted to cappuccino! But I got very funny looks from a waiter when I ordered one at 4pm one day. It was then that I discovered cappuccino is a morning coffee. After 10 or 11, it’s cafe or espresso, espresso, espresso (not for me though…wayyyyy to strong!) It is so normal for Italians to have 5, 6, 17 a day! My personal record is 2 at the moment. I am offered a cafe or espresso after every meal and I just can’t do it. Tried espresso after dinner one night and I didn’t sleep a wink. But for Italians, it’s like water to them…their body needs caffeine to fuel itself.
Cereal with coffee and milk seems to be a popular breakfast in most households as well. When I was given my coffee in a large bowl I thought it might be for my cereal. Trying to avoid this combination, I just started drinking my coffee from the bowl…I’ve been doing so for two weeks now.
THE LANGUAGE BARRIER
I’ve been pretty lucky with this so far. In Florence, the dad knew some English so I communicated a lot with him while I gestured a lot with the mom. In Boltiere, both mom and dad know English and they get better and better everyday so dinners are a very enjoyable experience because we can chat about anything. They are very funny too…always cracking jokes. Recently, they have been trying to set me up with Italian men…Mamma Mia.
As an ACLE tutor, you are typically placed with a host family whose children are attending camp…very rare that this isn’t the case. You never know how old the kids are or what they will be like. In Florence, I lived with a 6 year old boy and a 10 year old girl. The girl was very sweet but quiet and the boy was all over the place. He talked my ear off in Italian as if I understood everything, but then I showed him my iPad and he fell in love with Angry Birds so we could finally relate to each other on some level. One image I will never be able to burn from my memory as much as I try is walking to the bathroom every morning to see him sleeping with his door wide open and his underwearless behind flashing me.
In Boltiere I have lived with two adorable boys, 2 and 6 years old. Aside from getting woken up wayyyy before my alarm clock thanks to the beautiful cries of the bambino (the fake sound of Church bells ringing from a CD PLAYER in the bell tower next door don’t help either), he is the cutest child ever! The only thing he can say in English is “ello”! When I am skyping he comes into my room, looks at himself and my friend, then waves while saying “ello, ello”. Carlo, the 6 year old, is so full of energy and loves playing! We have Wii battles every now and then and a never ending game of tag going…I think I’m “IT” now. He doesn’t really know any English but ever since going to camp he has started saying “Hello” to me every time I walk into the room and “Goodbye” whenever I leave. At least he understands the difference.
THE PARENTS, NONNA, NONNO, and FAM
Ever watched Everybody Loves Raymomd? Well the families I’ve lived with have the same kind of family lifestyle except everyone gets along. In Florence, Nonno (grandpa) came over on Sunday morning to say hi and drop off fresh fungi he picked from the woods while Nonna took a snooze on the couch.
In Boltiere, the sister and brother-in-law live right next door in same complex, one nonna lives a 5 min bike ride away, and the other lives a 10 min car ride away. Needless to say, everyone is really close. They eat dinner together on Saturday and Sunday plus make a family trip to the supermarket/mall on Sunday! We all even went to Leolandia, a Leonardo da Vinci inspired water park with a touch of classic carnival rides, last Sunday.
THE OVERALL EXPERIENCE
Living with a host family has proven to be one of the coolest experiences of my life. Both my families have opened up their house to me, taken me to places unique to their city or region, taken care of my every need, and have truly made me a part of their family. I have had unique Italian experiences that I would never have had as a typical tourist. Simple outings such as going to a BBQ for a campers birthday party, going to the local festival with friends of my family, attending the breakdance recital of my co-tutors host sister, attending an Italian Water Zumba class with my host mom, and so much more are all experiences that have made me feel so much more connected to the Italian culture.
As hard as it is to get so close to a loving but temporary family, it is so nice to know that I will always have a place to call home…My Boltiere host mom has already decided I am going to marry an Italian man and move into the apartment across from hers with my mom and dad right next door!
“We are one big family of people, trying to make our way through the unfolding puzzle of life. We are all connected to one another in the heart. Connecting with the ultimate source of love is possible through discovering the hidden power in your heart.” — Sara Paddison