by Alison Mariel, Greenheart Travel Language Exchange Participant in Italy
Well, I arrived in Milan-Malpensa where my host mom (Paola) met me at the airport. She was so warm and welcoming right from the start. We drove back to the apartment where I met the rest of the family- Franco (host dad), Pepa (host sister) and Pavel (host brother). Everyone was very friendly and made me feel right at home, the kids were a bit shy at first but that was to be expected!
After settling in a bit and taking a 6 hour nap (oops!), Paola came and woke me up so I’d be able to sleep through the night, and they were having friends over for dinner which was nice to be a part of. I met Pepa’s best friend Celeste who was there with her mother and sister, as well as relatives of my host family. My dad made an amazing carbonara pasta and then branzino fish- delish. It was a stereotypical jovial Italian dinner with tons of people. And of course, tiramisu was to follow, plus another cake called “semifreddo” meaning “somewhat cold”, which was like an ice-cream cake but not quite as cold…hard to explain but delicious!
After dinner we all went in the living room by the fireplace where Franco played piano and his friend played the double bass. They both played very well.
Paola took out these random instruments and we each held one, playing it and dancing along to the music. I was like “oh my goodness, this is where I belong in the world”…much like the moment when Harry Potter steps out of the muggle world into Diagon Alley through platform 9 3/4. haha
The second day I ventured into Milan on my own and wandered around for 3 hours, there was just sooo much to see. I got by with conversational Italian which made me feel special, like at the cafe I went to for lunch or the many banks I went into in attempt to “cambiare i soldi”. The weather is quite cold here, and it is damp too so it seems even colder. The first two days were actually snowing.
It looks like I will begin taking Italian classes next week in Milan, 3x/week with two classes each of those days…which will last ten weeks. I am also considering taking an additional class 1x/week here in my town because it’s close and free. I’ll be going to the gym in some of my free time too because there isn’t a way to really run around here… unless you drive out of town to a track or the countryside. However, the gyms require a doctors note for foreigners which is weird! We’ll see how I can arrange that… luckily my host mom is very athletic too so she understands and is just very helpful with everything in general.
As for the family’s language skills, Paola speaks the most English, Franco can speak it pretty well, Pepa can understand more than she speaks (she’s a bit shy with speaking, but also probably because she doesn’t know me very well yet) and Pavel understands very little and is VERY shy (and quite adorable). The family speaks Italian amongst themselves most of the day which is great for me to be able to hear in order to get better at speaking the language too.
Overall it has been an incredible first few days here and I wouldn’t change a thing! I feel quite fortunate to have come across this opportunity.