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When I was 12 years old I was living in Greece. I went to a school called American Community Schools or ACS. It was very progressive consisting of many teachers that were actually college professors that had come to Greece on Sabbatical to teach. I loved my education there because it was very “college like”. When I moved by to the states I was a year or two a head of the kids in the Virginia Public Schools plus the attitude from Greece to Virginia was like night and day. I did not do well needless to say and ended up quitting when I was 16.
One of the thing ACS did every year was plan a big trip to another country where 10 boys and 10 girls could go. The competition to be one of these lucky 20 was intense. There was a very involved application process that included essays, interviews and other tough requirements. There was a whole weeding down process. But if you were lucky to be picked then the real fun began and that was learning the language of the country you were visiting and the customs etc.
I was one of the chosen few that made it through the tough process and was picked to go to Italy. It took months to prepare but finally we could go. It was the most amazing trip of my life. Of course we went to Rome first where I got to walk in the enormous Colosseum and see all the monuments. We spent a day going to the Vatican where we were blessed by Pope John Paul….in English. We saw the Sistine Chapel and other glorious churches and then we went to Pompeii. We were there for 2 weeks and we saw it all. Our two teachers (both men) who guided us through this beautiful country were patient and kind and as enthusiastic as we were.
We never stayed in a single hotel. Instead we got to stay at boarding houses run by Italian families where they cooked for us and interacted with us. There is nothing like an authentic Italian family at meal time.
All of the memories came flooding back for me as I read Eat, Love, Pray by Elizabeth Gilbert. She captured life in Italy perfectly.
So to answer today’s Daily Prompt….if I could pause my life for a year and live with any family in any part of the world I would definitely pick Italy. I gave this a lot of thought and tried to think of a country I hadn’t been to for this experiment but my memories and my heart kept taking me back to Italy.
The reasons are many but let us start with the food! Oh my God the food. I gained several pounds while I was there despite doing Italy mostly on foot. The food was unlike what I thought it would be. Yes the pasta and pizza was great but their food is so varied and the flavors simply take over your whole body.
The people were kind and demonstrative and larger than life. There was love and compassion that was openly displayed and they had a wonderful sense of life, themselves and humor.
Time was just not a factor in Italy. Life is meant to be savored (much like their food) so there just was no place for clock watching and stress due to time constraints…that is the American way but not Europe…at least not then. In fact if you tried to do anything in a rushed fashion you would probably have an aneurysm because no amount of pushing would make them move faster….that is a concept that was completely foreign and out of place in their world. They saved all their stress and anxiety for Soccer games. Now that event could make them all crazy.
In a place where time practically did not exist one could walk the lovely streets slowly savoring every step through history and beauty. One brought a book to a restaurant where one could sit for hours sipping one drink. Entertainment was family and food and meals were a time to renew and catch up. Worrying about things had no place….let go and let God and go to mass and confession for your worries UNLESS it was Soccer. Beauty was revered, food savored and family cherished. Yes, definitely Italy. I could not think of another place I would rather go to recharge and step back into the world of the living.