„Chi è? “
„Pauline e Elena“
„Ciao, welcome, come in!“
We will miss this. We will miss you offering us coffee three times a day and feeding us with Mustacciuoli. Maybe we will not miss so much waiting for every Italian at least ten minutes after the appointed time. But we will miss your smile every time we arrived at the office and your patience with which you listened to – and solved – all of our bombola problems.
At the start of a six months project the time seems endless and even after returning from our Christmas break we still had many blank weeks laying in front of us. But after January arrived February and too soon with the beginning of March the end of our time in Taurisano.
It was difficult to say goodbye to the kindergarten on our last day there. Maybe not every child understood that we not just forgot the “A domani” after the “Ciao”, but they gave us a big hug when they saw us with tears in our eyes. And even if they might be too young to remember zia Pauline and zia Elena, we’ll surely never forget the struggle to match the right backpack to the right child or the endless fights over toys.
Those mornings in the kindergarten taught us how little shared language can be needed to communicate and that it is okay to sometimes just accept frustrating days, where nothing seems to work as it should. But we also learned from the little ones to appreciate the pure excitement of small things, to value each child in its uniqueness and how happy a simple smile or hug can make.
In the afternoons our language courses, as well as the hours of preparation for those, encouraged us to take self-initiative and to try out something new we never did before.
We are incredibly proud of our students, of the progress they made and the motivation with which they attended the courses and wanted to learn and improve their English or German. And they not only learned from us, we also learned a lot from them and about teaching strategies in general: sometimes the exercises we thought were the most difficult were done in under two minutes – and it happened also the other way around.
However, language was not only an important part of our experience due to those courses. For the last six months our main communication language was English, we became more confident in speaking and giving presentations and learned how to paraphrase, when we missed a word. Inventions like “the thing above the fridge” for the freezer or “the brum brum” instead of the vacuum cleaner can definitely represent our creativity. Apart from that, we are proud to say, that our Italian got way better over those months. We arrived here with zero knowledge of the language (and of course the dialect!) and leave with a good listening comprehension, the ability to hold simple conversations and even some dialect expressions. Besides this, Pauline can now present herself in German and Elena learned some important French vocabulary, which incomprehensibly wasn’t covered in her French lessons at school…
And of course, language was not the only part of living in another country. Cultural differences made us reflect our own habits and discover where we were fully able to adapt to local circumstances, but also what we just could not get used to. We got to visit the beautiful nature of the Salento, while living so close to the beach is something we already miss now.
And in the end, it’s all about the people. The kindness of Italians, their open and welcoming attitude were some of the first things we positively recognized and this impression stayed with us until the end. Nothing feels better then cycling back from the kindergarten and being able to stop by and greet all those incredibly grwat people we got to know over the last months.
During this last week we had problems finishing the food in our own fridge, because we went to the restaurant with so many people we wanted to say goodbye to: the traditional lunch with the members of our English course, Pizza with the kindergarten teachers, an evening with our German course and of course the last Aperitivo with the office, as a Goodbye for us and a Welcome for Clara from Spain, who will spend the next three months at Fattoria.
Yet there was still not enough time for a last meeting with everyone, because on Monday in our last week we left for a three-day travel to Bucharest. This meeting was part of a project about the inclusion of disadvantaged children in social fields and for us a great opportunity to meet and exchange with interesting people and to visit the capital of Romania. So although the travel there and back was incredibly long, it was definitely worth it.
After our return from Bucharest it was already time to do the final packing and cleaning of our apartment. We went to the office for a last Pasticciotto and travelled home by bus and car.
Now we are already back home in France and Germany since a few days and it is definitely a strange feeling. It feels like leaving another life and so many wonderful memories behind in Italy. But we can both say that our decision to do this voluntary service and move to Taurisano was definitely a good one and we would always do it again.
Grazie di tutto, senza la vostra accoglienza e ospitalità niente di questa esperienza sarebbe stato possibile. Siamo più che felici di essere state cittadine temporanee di Taurisano e siamo sicure che ci rivedremo ancora!