Walking in to Manna house every afternoon, I would already hear the old CD player blasting Gianni Morandi. It was an everyday event for me and Tiziana (a community member) to bond over old Italian music. At one point, we would sing loud and proud together when I started picking up the Italian lyrics. We always sat by the window listening to old Italian music while chatting away about our day and weekend. I would position her wheelchair in front of the green couch where I would sit and we’d talk until dinner was served. The relationship I’ve made with Tiziana was one that I can’t compare with anyone. We were polar opposites, I, the extroverted positive girl, while she was more introverted and tended to complain about many things (it was quite humorous though). But our love for Gianni Morandi, Gramigna pasta, and art proved how close we’ve become. I will always remember how she’d always whisper in my ear when she wanted to tell me one of her many secrets or how she’d laugh after one beer during dinner. Her presence in a room creates such a positive energy despite her being quite introverted. I’m so lucky to have formed such a strong bond with someone like her.
Besides Tiziana, other things that brought me joy in my experience was the strong bond among the whole community. Yes, L’arche was work for some people but they all treated each other like a family rather than just “work mates”. And I’m so thankful that I was treated and acknowledged as a part of their family. I’d learn so many recipes from my Sicilian “mammas”, Italian slang, and overall just absorb their “Dolce Farniente” lifestyle. The community members, assistants, volunteers, and head people all contributed to this strong familial feeling in the community. I can now gladly say that I have a second family in Italy.
Aside all the positive things, there were a few challenges I overcame throughout my experience. I believe the most major one was the Italian language barrier. Going into L’arche I only knew the names of pasta and the basic “Ciao”. I instantly regretted my decision of not going on Duolingo during my first day in the community. Thankfully, it was easy for me to pick up Italian because it was quite similar to Spanish (I studied Spanish for four years). Also, I persevered to learn Italian by getting a book and taking notes of words I heard a lot in the community and translating them right after. Now, I can say that I’m actually pretty decent in Italian. I’m continuing my study of the language but I can understand and actually get by. I’m extremely grateful that in the beginning, the assistants who spoke English helped us with the translation. They knew it was a challenging time for us and they didn’t hesitate to help us out by translating and even teaching us. I can’t thank the L’arche community enough for this amazing experience. Two months in Italy definitely flew by but the memories and lessons will always stay with me. Per l’ultima volta, arrivederci a tutti!