Okay, brace yourself. This is going to be a long entry because I’m squeezing three weeks into one post.
Prior to coming to the village of Goito, I tried to research it, but I couldn’t find much. I was so nervous. Here I was, thousands of miles from home with very little information on where I was going, who I was staying with, or how I was going to get there. As an excessive planner, this was my worst nightmare. There wasn’t a train and the hotel concierge said it was too difficult to take a bus. I was so close to jumping ship and buying a plane ticket back to Nashville (I’d gotten pretty homesick at this point); however, I knew I’d regret it if I took the easy way out. I’m so glad I stayed because here’s what I would have missed…
I would have missed a village of kids that have brought so much light into my life. I would’ve missed performing for them and learning their favorite dances. I would have missed a lot of laughs with my hilarious host mother and seeing her gorgeous gardens. I would have missed her cooking, her love for Wii Tennis, and her beautiful big heart. I would have missed my 22-year-old host sister, Desi and her love for adventuring. I would have missed my host father’s jokes, constantly making me repeat words that he knows I won’t be able to pronounce. I would have missed coming home to him saying, “Whatchup, Leeev!” I would have missed the small town of Goito where I teach English at a children’s camp, and the even smaller village (population 150 people) of Sacca, where I live with my host family. Last but not least, I would have missed my amazing 16-year-old host sister, Alice (pronounced Ah LEE Chay). She and her family have forever touched my life.
Alice may be four years younger than I, but she is my teacher. Most afternoons she sits down with me and patiently teaches me Italian. She helps me with my Italian homework and sometimes it takes me hours, but she never seems irritated. She’s introduced me to her friends, her family, her dance team, and the whole town of Goito. I’m amazed by her and her family’s willingness to fully let a stranger into their life. I truly felt like I was a part of their family. I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason, and I do believe they were put into my life to remind me the importance of family, community, patience, and kindness.
In Goito they speak their own dialect called, Mantovano. It’s a mixture of Italian, German, and French. Very few people know how to write it anymore, and it’s only passed on by word of mouth- there aren’t any books explaining it. Instead of the Italian “Tutto bene?” which means all good? they say in Mantovano, “Tüt ben?” It’s very hard to catch on and I’m mixing up the dialect with the actual Italian language, but I find it to be facinating. My host father thinks it’s hilarious when I try to speak Mantovano. I’ve learned you can’t be afraid to sound like an idiot because you’re going to sound like an idiot, and that’s the reality so just own it.
There are two other Americans in Goito with me.
First there’s Victoria. A headstrong 19-year-old architect major from University of Maryland. She’s originally from Argentina, but moved to America at a young age. I’m so grateful she’s fluent in Italian because she really helps me communicate with everyone. I often find her sneaking off someplace quiet to sketch. Once when I was rehearsing, she quietly drew me. I was blown away by what she created in merely thirty minutes.
And then there’s Mary. Mary’s a 20-year-old public health major from the University of Virginia. She loves to play soccer and teach the kids English. I enjoy spending time with her because she has this positive spirit that’s contagious.
We are working at a camp in Goito. We were told we’d be teaching English everyday in Milan, and the camp directors were told we’d all be engineering majors from MIT (lololololol). The program launched this year, so the messages seemed to have gotten lost in translation. While we are teaching a bit of English we’re more so just along for the ride. There are roughly 200 kids and every day we do something different. A typical day can vary from a 30 km bike ride, a field trip, or playing soccer for hours on the fields, you never know what’s going to happen.
That’s the thing: life moves much slower here. Not every day is planned down to the minute. I’m used to constantly being in a rush and always focused on what’s next. I’ve had to learn to accept that I usually don’t know what’s happening until it’s happening. Now that I’ve surrendered to the unknown, I’ve grown to appreciate it. I know once I return home to the U.S. life will pick up the pace again and I’ll be missing the days where I didn’t have to worry about a calendar or a clock.
Speaking of home, can we just talk about the Cleveland Cavaliers real quick. Some of my students here wake up at 3 AM just to catch the NBA games. I was so proud to tell them that was my hometown. I watch the news every morning with my host family and they only hear about the negative things in America; the Orlando shooting, the Stanford rape case, forest fires out west etc. But on the morning of June 16th we turned on the news at the breakfast table and we got to witness my city come together as a community. I had tears in my eyes as I recognized some of the faces on the screen. People hugging, laughing, and crying tears of joy. I know it was just a basketball game, but for us Clevelanders it was so much more. Though I was experiencing serious FOMO (fear of missing out), I was so excited to have been able to share and explain that moment to my host family. Even if it was just a game, they got to see that my country wasn’t all bad.
Even though I missed the championship, had I decided to leave Italy I would have missed so many other amazing experiences. I never would have found this village or met these people, and I’m forever changed because I did.
My final stop next week is Milan. I’m meeting one of my closest friends and producer, Alessandro (aka Rugabeatz). I’m excited to spend the week with him and hopefully lay something down in the studio! Of course, I’ll keep you posted.
L I V