Guess who’s back?? 😎
Yes, it’s us! Despite all the difficulties of travelling during a pandemic we managed to go back to our home countries for the Christmas holidays and also safely returned to our hometown of adoption at the beginning of January.
But as we wrote our last blog post just at the beginning of December we don’t want to jump forward, but fill you up on everything that has happened in those last weeks.
During December we got to experience Christmas time in Salento, which included beautifully decorated streets and nativity scenes, as well as sharing Christmas traditions: Elena definitely had some difficulties explaining what she intended with her circle of fir branches and four candles, because apparently this German tradition is not as international or even European as she thought it to be.
Apart from that we made sure the Italian Babbo Natale also knew our Christmas wishes by writing him a letter as part of the local “Il Natale dei Desideri”, used the feared phone call to Babbo Natale to get the children at the kindergarten to finish their pasta and sang “Jingle Bell Rock” around 1000 times in return.
To our regret, our plan to visit some Italian Christmas markets had only mixed results: one closed one in the castle of Otranto, where we only got to admire the beautiful light installations and one small market in Santa Maria di Leuca next to the sea, which reaffirmed the need for Pauline to teach Italians how to make proper Crêpes.But of course we did not only use December to eat a lot of Panettone and decorate the office with Christmas items, we also did some serious work.
The last month of the year brought with it the provisional end of the digital alphabetisation course, so we let our seniors out into the endless possibilities of the internet on their own (with maybe just a little bit needed support from their family members). Accompanying this course not only gave us a new perspective on the digital world, which already seems so natural for our generation, but also added new phrases like “Click aqui!” to our Italian vocabulary.
And of course there were the last meetings of “Verde Natale”, Saturday mornings we won’t forget that fast, if only for the glitter that still managed to stick everywhere weeks after.
Right in the second week of December we experienced one of the most intense weeks here so far: the ERASVUS project. For one week Fattoria hosted 18 seniors from Hungary, Spain and the Canary Islands for an international exchange. Together with this motley group we visited the region, tried to dance the traditional Pizzica dance, did a spontaneous Christmas song performance on the street in front of the office, experienced a diverse understanding of time in different cultures and got to know each other’s countries through music and a lot of delicious food. So if you saw to slightly overtaxed girls in the streets of Taurisano these days, trying to guide a big group of seniors to the restaurant without really understanding or speaking their language – it was definitely us!
The last week before our return home arrived way faster than expected and we used those days to do a last Christmas cookie baking session, find a safe parking space for the Europanda, have a Christmas dinner with the office members and pack and repack our bags until everything we wanted to bring home fitted inside. And as if this December hadn’t already been full of great projects, we finished the week with a big event at a local high school, where we got to present the European Solidarity Corps to students, finishing just in time to catch our bus towards home.
After this intense end of the year the Christmas holidays were a well-deserved rest, although it felt strange at first to be back home and find everything more or less exactly like we left it behind more than three months ago. The biggest change was probably finally understanding every conversation and sign on the street again and not needing to use the Google Translator for important conversations. We spent around two weeks at home, meeting friends and family and celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve until it was time to check the updated covid travel restrictions, fill in the Passenger Locator Form, make an official covid test, prepare all needed documents and double and triple check that we didn’t forgot anything important. And so we finally returned at the beginning of the new year – ready to accomplish our mission of making our English course students permanently bilingual.
Due to the, in the meantime also in Italy increasing, Covid numbers unfortunately some activities got cancelled, but we make the best out of the situation and use every opportunity as long as we have it.
To our luck the kindergarten is still open, so we could proudly witness the first steps of one of the youngest and were taught the Italian national anthem by a three-year old.
Apart from that Elena supported the “REMEMBERING” project in Ruffano, Pauline continues to work on her photography project, we started with some ideas of decorating the office and did a little hike with impressive views next to Galignano del Capo.
During the next weeks we’ll hopefully start new language courses and we are going to participate in an online training for volunteers, organized by the Italian National Agency. So although these upcoming weeks will be quieter than our time in December, we are definitely glad to be back and are looking forward to everything that will happen.
Pauline & Elena