Sunday, May 30, 2010

Surviving Seafood

I came to the realization that I have been here almost a month. Almost. God has been so faithful in helping me adjust. This past weekend we went to a picnic for Giuseppe's end of the year party. Italians are very keen on spending hours together over food, and when I first came it was hard to sit and try to understand people for hours on end. I was surprised when I found that I was genuinely enjoying every minute of the picnic and loved talking with people. At this point I have become friends with some of the people Monica and Igor know, so I had a base of people I could spend time with. I have also met a couple Americans that have lived in Italy for a while and I was able to talk with them and even got invited to an night picnic in a couple weeks.

When we got home we had an hour to rest and then we had friends of the family over. They were wonderful. We laughed and talked for hours. I must mention the irony of the dinner. Monica is a wonderful cook. She makes all sorts of foods for the family and outdoes herself at parties. Let me say that I am not a picky eater at all. I have eaten cow tongue, pig's ear, and chicken's foot, but when it comes to seafood I would rather go hungry. When it came time to eat, my plate was set in front of me, and I was staring at the biggest slab of fish I had seen in my entire life. It was comparable to the size of a steak at Applebees. My heart (and stomach) sank as I heard the other people at the table sing thier praises about the choice of food. I begged my gag reflex to behave itself, and took a bite. I wish I could tell you I was wrong and that I liked the gigantic sea creature on my plate but it is not so. I forced a smile and ate the fish as quickly as I possibly could. My performance deserved a Grammy.

Italian party menus always have multiple courses, so I wondered what was next. Perhaps some of the awesome bread and cheese that we usually have. Oh no, what was brought next was shrimp on kebobs. I took a kebob, willing to give the shrimp a try even though I haven't liked them for years. I bit into one and felt my stomach twist. Nope. Can't do it. At this point my mouth had told my stomach that it didn't like what was going on, and I started to feel a bit queasy. Praise the Lord for our dog, Foxi, that came to my rescue. I slipped her the remaining shrimp with spy-like skills. No one ever knew. I love that dog.

Besides braving seafood attacks, I am getting to know the family better each day. We went up to the Italian side of the Swiss Alps today and drove to thousands of feet in the air. I couldn't believe the view. I love knowing that no one can outdo God. I am in the land of beautiful cathedrals, historic buildings, and impeccable taste, but those mountains easily outdid all of those things in beauty and majesty. His creation is beyond anything we could ever hope to create (although I may speak to Him about this whole seafood issue. I don't know whose idea it was to eat it. Me and that person will have words when I get to heaven).

Peace in Christ

Friday, May 28, 2010

My Elastic Heart

When I came back from the Dominican I felt as if my heart was stretched from Mishawaka to my little mountain village, Los Higos. I remember fighting back tears as I looked at a photo of the preschoolers Brit, Selina, and I poured our hearts and souls into during our time there. There were times I felt my heart was going to snap, like a rubber band that is stretched that centimeter too far. As time went on and I readjusted to my life in the States, the moments of feeling stretched were less frequent, but certainly made thier appearance.

I did not realize that these moments would still happen when I travelled to Italy. In my silly mind I imagined that one could only miss a single continent at a time. To my surprise I was very wrong. I find myself missing people in the States, and being able to spend time with friends and family. God told me to keep my heart here, so that's what I am doing, but it ocassionally escapes my watchful eye and makes and elastic reach for the things of home. It is like an addict that needs it's fix of something familiar in this unfamiliar environment. I might compare myself to a fish that voluntarily jumped out of her tank, and finds herself missing that safe water at times.

During the stressful times here in Italy I desire something familiar, and now the Dominican and the States are both familiar things to me now. My heart leaps when I hear English and Spanish. I became instant friends with a couple Spanish speakers here and they laughed at the American, in Italy, speaking Spanish. At times pictures will pop up of the Dominican, and I am amused that the place that was once unfamiliar is now something I think of as a safe home to run to.

However, I am here, in Bergamo, Italy, and I must try with all my might to focus on the here and now and try to contain my elastic heart and aim it toward learning all I can while I am in Europe. God made my heart to love adventure, but He also made it to connect to other hearts. I will return to these familiar hearts soon, but for now I will work to keep it here with me, with my kids, and one day I will feel the elastic chords of my heart pull my thoughts towards Bergamo, and the precious to-be-made memories.

Peace in Christ

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Before I left, I got asked by countless people why I wanted to do this. As I boarded the plane, I asked myself the same question and there are moments here where I shake my head and repeat it.

I have always been obsessed with adventure. From the books I read as a child (and now), to the movies I love, and the history I am fascinated by, adventure captures my attention better than almost anything else. I suppose this was the insigator in my search for an adventurous summer. I knew that travelling alone and living in a foreign counrty for three months would challenge me in every way. I wanted to better myself and learn more about the world. This time in Italy is already doing that. My walk with God has gotten more tactile as I am forced to come to Him only with hardships. He is teaching me a lot about myself and others.

Secondly, I made a promise to myself a while back that I would travel internationally by myself before I got married. It wasn't a matter of proving anything to anyone but myself. I knew that I could do it, but how could I really be sure unless I acted on it? I do not see marraige as an end to adventure. On the contrary I plan on going on countless adventures with my husband. However, there is something to going out on your own, and testing your own independence. I also didn't want to get married and regret not taking this opportunity to grow. I want to be a wife that is fully content with her past adventures by herself and the future ones with her husband.

When it came to finding the venue for this adventure I considered two facts: I love kids, and I love other cultures. Being an au pair (international nanny) was the perfect fit as it combined these two things. I get to live with a family, expirience thier culture and language, while being able to take care of kids. I grow to love my job more each day as Giuseppe and Margherita become more comfortable with me and as we spend more time together going to the park, reading books together, or snuggling as we watch a movie. I am truly blessed.

Peace in Christ

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Winning an Italian's Heart

Giuseppe Lazzarini insists on opening doors for people. He enjoys building things and just sitting and watching a good film. His favorite foods are pasta and pizza. Sounds like a perfect gentleman? Well, Giuseppe is 5, and was also not too keen on the idea of having a nanny (me).

When I arrived, Margherita, his little sis warmed right up to me and was walking hand in hand with me almost as soon as I walked off the plane. Giuseppe was polite, yet shy. However, soon the shyness turned into a general dislike of my presence. I tried everything. I didn't show my irritation at his stubbornness and had been nothing but sweet to this kid, so my friends endured my venting as I described his various insults throughout the day. I was so confused! Kids like me, and I like them. Even the most stubborn and closed off kids have become my buddies.

His mother, Monica, was encouraging, and said that he told his school friend that he liked having me here. However, I was greeted with a 5-year-old death stare. I was told that on Wednesday I was to pick him up from school for the first time, bring him home, and hang out with him for a few hours. I was completely convinced the kid wouldn't leave the school door if he saw me standing outside of it. The picture was clear in my mind: I would walk up to the door, he would take one peek and see the American invader waiting for him, and he would slam the door with a quick "Arrivederci!" I was sure this is how it would go. I needed a game plan.

I knew that Giuseppe loves to watch cartoons. So I planned to let him pick out whatever one he wanted and watch it with him. I prayed for the rest to come to me as Wednesday I walked to his school with a fake "everything is fine" face and slow walk.

I reached the gates and entered a world of moms chattering in Italian. I took a breath, walked up to the door, and asked for Giuseppe. They opened the door wider, and there he was, no expression on his face. I smiled like a good nanny and said "Ciao Guiseppe! Come stai?" No answer. Well, this is getting off to a great start. We walked to the side of the school and he ate his snack in silence. One the way home he did not walk next to me, only behind, no matter how slow I walked. When we got home he asked if he could pick out a cartoon and I cheerfully replied that of course he could. Halfway through the movie I asked him if he was hungry and when he said yes, I brought him and I cookies to eat. You may call it bribing, but save your judgment for when you have a scowling 5 year old Italian on your hands. He smiled at me for the first time. Ok, this is good!

After the movie he was a bit more talkative. By the grace of God (literally) I was able to understand his Italian. I was even able to reply a few times. We went outside and I seized the opportunity to have fun with him to show him I was not scary. Him and I played a combination of soccer, football, and who knows what else in the yard and had a grand time. After that was over we returned inside and watched a short cartoon again. He got up during the parts with music and danced, and jumped around, looking back at me and laughing. I could not smile big enough to express my relief and happiness. We are friends.

Peace in Christ

Monday, May 17, 2010

Citta Alta

On Saturday I was able to explore the upper part of Bergamo (Citta Alta). All of the old cathedrals and buildings are the same from hundreds of years ago. If you have never explored somewhere new by yourself, you must try it sometime. I often have missed people at home and wished for an "adventure buddy" so to speak, but I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around by myself at my own pace, accompanied only by my thoughts and my camera.
Citta Alta is filled with many side streets and places to explore, but by the grace of God (literally) I did not get lost in the maze of history. Perhaps my favorite place was the cathedral of Saint Alessandro. It was build in the 1400's, with painted ceilings that seem to reach the sky. The sunlight is thrown on the intricate depictions of Christ and the saints through the windows that are hundreds of feet in the air. Monks were singing God's praises as I wondered this huge place. The floors were marble and gold seemed to be everywhere. Italians seem to be experts at beauty, and this was clearly shown in how the cathedral was designed and decorated. The singing was haunting as I went down stairs that led to a huge room with the marble tombs of previous nuns and monks. As I climbed back up, I noticed room dedicated to prayer. I went in, sat down, and thanked God for the opportunity He has given me and for the things I have seen. Saturday may be my favorite day here so far.

I am learning more and more about Italian culture. This weekend we were invited to a friend's house and then hosted a party ourselves on Saturday night. It is common to sit around a table after you eat and talk for hours. I enjoy this time of getting to know people, but I must admit it gets tiring struggling to understand people for hours on end, and not being able to contribute much. That being said, my understanding of Italian is increasing. Hopefully by the end I will be able to add to conversations as well.

Other exciting news: I booked my hostel for London. I am travelling there right before I head home to the States. I found one right in the center of London, with easy access to the things I want to see. I basically wanted a place with a bed for me and a kitchen so I don't have to spend a bunch of money on eating out. This place has both of those and internet, with free linens included. For the price I am paying it is a steal.

For now though my residence is in Bergamo, Italia. I am navigating the complications of culture shock but life goes on and I am doing well. Arrivederci!

Peace in Christ,


Thursday, May 13, 2010


Well dear friends I fail at blogging. I find that it is only late at night that I can convince myself to stop looking at the world around me and get to writing a blog post.

I must swallow my pride for a second and admit that it wasn't until I reached the airport that I realized how big of a decision I had made when I decided to come to Italy for the summer. While boarding the plane my throat went dry and my heart tightened in my chest. What in the world was I doing? I cursed my impulsiveness and thirst for adventure as I sat in my small airplane seat and prepared for the long flight. My mind was going a million miles a minute as I thought of the people I would miss, dealing with culture shock alone, what the family would be like, and so on. I finally told myself to suck it up and that I was in it for the long haul and I'd better get used to it.

Despite my worries I arrived safe and sound in Italy on Saturday, May 8th. Seeing the family waiting for me put me at ease and we greeted eachother with many smiles.

The family is wonderful. Monica, the mom, and I get along great. I love getting to know her and spending time with her. I am nannying for two children. Giuseppe, 5, is a little man and insists on holding the door for people. Margherita, 2 1/2, mumbles her Italian with an adorable lisp. They don't understand that I don't speak Italian, yet strangely I understand them better than anyone.

Bergamo, Italy is perhaps the most beautiful cities I have ever been in. There is Citta Alta, the higher city, which has all of the origional buildings, the newest being from the 19th century. There are churches that were constructed in the 12th century as well. All of this is a short walk from our house. My camera will be my constant companion.

I miss people at home, it's true, but I love being here and I look forward to my expirience. I have already grown to love the family I am living with, and can't wait to get to know them better and for them to know me as well. Until next time.

Peace in Christ.