Turin (Torino in Italian) is perfectly situated for the most amazing travel opportunities, but our experiences extend past travel and have been both planned and unplanned. Our adventures have ranged from buying paint to discovering the Amalfi Coast on foot. Our passport is full of once-in-a-lifetime destinations and our stories of cultural acclimation are too long for anyone to bear in one sitting. Every time we ask the girls what their favorite trip has been, they name the last place we’ve been. I don’t know if that’s the truth or what’s most recent, but I will say that we have not been anywhere that we haven’t had an incredibly good time. And while we have the chance to visit nearly all the major attractions, the things we really love about Italy are the little gems you can find along the way…from a beautiful 750 year old church right around the corner from our house to a pumpkin festival in the little town of Puzzo, to truffle hunting in the fields of Alba. We truly have a new adventure around every corner.
Looking back on the past year, I can almost mark exact dates on the calendar when I started to incrementally feel like a whole, functioning member of society. Around the end of March (three month mark), we had finally unpacked, set up furniture and began to feel settled physically. This was also the same time we took our first trip to the Canary Islands for Spring Break. In November, I finally felt comfortable enough to confidently give directions when asked on the street and in December, I am no longer afraid to put myself into Italian only situations like an organized class.
The most important part of our comfort is language. In Torino, and all non-tourist cities of Italy, people generally speak very little English and so we are working hard to become competent in Italian. I’ve always worked toward bettering my English grammar and to know the difference between “good” and “well” but now cannot remember the words for “go” (vado) and come (vengo). How incredibly frustrating! Gardner (10) summed it up best when she said that we have to be fluent to really communicate and understand people, otherwise she feels “too different.”
The girls, however, have adapted so very well. I give so much credit to their Montessori background for the flexibility and confidence they have in their new city and school. I give Gordie 100% of the credit for their positive attitudes. They complain very little and are always excited about discovering a new place or opportunity. Gardner says her favorite thing about living in Italy is that “it is a new opportunity in life, because it’s a whole different environment and it feels like you’re starting your life over.” The school, following an international baccalaureate program, has been quite a lesson in patience and understanding for me. Everything is in English but with so many children at so many different levels, speaking a range of languages, entering and leaving throughout the year, it’s incredible they are able to teach anyone anything. Gardner (fifth grade) has had the opportunity to complete group projects in class and enjoys presenting them to her classmates. Dawson (second grade) is enjoying the school’s sustainability philosophy and is a class representative for the Eco Club.
Gordie’s engine program is breaking new ground for GE including extensive use of additive manufacturing (3D printing). Overall, it is going very well and he is very happy with his team and the progress they are making. They speak English at the office but since the majority of the team is non-American, he is able to learn so much from them both in language and local advice. The engine will be tested for the first time next summer in Prague so we all plan to spend the summer there and we look forward to the adventure of it.
We all still miss family and friends in America, though. The girls ache for their friends and miss their yard and house. Dawson often comments how much she misses the stairs! We had the opportunity for a long visit over the summer to catch up and we are always happy to have visitors (hint hint). When Gordie makes business trips home, he always takes an extra suitcase…wine, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar going to the US, and hot cocoa, maple syrup, and peanut butter coming back. In general, though, they are comforts and not necessities.
2016 has been memorable in so many ways and we wouldn’t trade a minute of it. We continue to learn empathy in ways we could never have imagined through our interactions with locals as well as other expats. We continue to expand our view to see the world as a global community that shares the same basic values of the pursuit of happiness and health. In this year of differences, we have reaffirmed our values of hard-work, education, truth and kindness and share them in all the ways we know how. We are so very thankful our girls are learning that we are part of a whole, wide world filled with diversity. We will do our part and continue to be ambassadors for the United States wherever we go, letting everyone we meet know that Americans are friendly, curious and open-minded global citizens. We hope that 2107 brings peace, stability and advancement of all people across the world.