So….it’s been six months since I returned from Italy, and I never actually finished updating my tumblr. I know this. I’ve been reading this book called The Happiness Project, in which the author sets out to focus on certain resolutions each month for one year in an effort to increase her sense of fulfillment in her life. The first month focused on energy, with one goal being to “Do it now” to eliminate those unfinished tasks that drain you with their guilt.
So I’m doing it now.
It occurred to me while re-reading my posts that I left this tumblr on a slightly negative note, which really doesn’t do my time in Altamura justice or support my relentlessly positive view of my ACLE experience or life in general.
Oh, the camp was still frustrating. But it was here I learned two very valuable tools…
A little background - the main rule of the camp is to speak only English, leading some kids to act like they were smarter than us because they could speak two languages. Or so they thought. It was near the end of camp when the worst of them all, a girl named Isa, was complaining in Italian. I just looked at her for a minute, then fired off a stream of Italian acknowledging everything she had said and calling her out about how rude she was to her classmates. It was the first and only time the room ever reached complete silence. Every single kid literally froze and looked at me with a combination of respect and “Crap, you mean she’s understood us this whole time?!”
Not only was Isa not rude to anyone again, she even smiled at me and offered to help me the rest of the week.
The second tool, dodgeball. Enough said.
Despite all the frustration, or maybe even because of it, the end of camp showcase was so rewarding.
My class picked the song “Replay” by Sean Kingston to perform at the end of their talent show. The plan was to have three kids start it off, then have the whole class jump in at the end for a grand finale. The three kids had just started singing, when their phone stopped playing the song (they were holding the phone up to the microphone). I gestured “it’s ok, just start over,” so they did. And it did it again. They froze in front of everyone with no idea what to do. All of a sudden one of the other leaders, Jack, joined in singing and clapping. So I did too. Then the entire audience did too! The rest of the class came out, singing and dancing to the song along with their friends and families. I will never forget how happy they looked up there and how everyone celebrated the end of camp together with the song. I was fighting back tears, I was so proud of them.
Things came a long way with my host family, too. I could tell they really loved showing me off to all their friends & family and made an effort to do things for me like have my favorite breakfast cookies ready in the morning (there’s a reason I came back 8 pounds heavier). The girls were so excited to spend time with me, holding my hand everywhere we went. One night after dinner we had a dance party in the living room to I’m a Barbie Girl over and over. They even got help from another leader to write me a note in English telling me how great this experience was, how I was a part of their family now and forever, and how both me and everyone I know are always welcome in their home. They really are a part of my family now too, and I miss them a lot.
I also grew very close to my other leaders Charlotte and Jack and one of the helpers, Simona. Seriously, words cannot describe how much I care for every single person I became friends with on this trip!
Charlotte and I were sent to the next camp together, where our difficult Altamura camp experience proved to be the training we needed to survive in Tricase. In true irony (also I’m convinced Vincent hates me), I was sent to the very, very bottom tip of Italy despite asking to be placed farther north for my last camp.
The area was absolutely breath-taking everywhere. My last family had such a sweet, gentle spirit. Rocco and Luigina have two kids 8 and 12-ish, Giuseppe and Noemi.
I spent my last week with ACLE finally getting over my sickness, enjoying traditional Italian meals and nightly walks with my family, Charlotte and her family, and swimming in deep, bright blue water off the gorgeous black rock coast with our camp instructors…Oh, and going to this unbelievable lights festival.
At camp, I had a class eight-year-olds, 9 boys and 1 girl. The boys fought all the time, which was extraordinarily exhausting at the time and very funny now. For the end of the week show they each picked a superhero, and I wrote a short skit about good superheroes versus bad superheroes. I incorporated their love of fighting with an epic battle scene…Despite several explanations and demonstrations of fake fighting (and several successful run-through’s in the classroom), of course all hell breaks loose when we show our dress rehearsal to the camp directors for approval. One kid’s being choked, another is full-on punched in the face…ack. Oh well, what can you do? Long story short, we did make it through the show. I ended the week loving each and every kid, including and maybe even more so, the difficult ones.
And that was it. My time with ACLE, over. It felt so long when I started, but felt way too short by the end. It was the best experience of my life.
I got an email the other day asking if I’d like to return this summer for round two…