Thursday, May 24, 2012

End of the Year and More

ciao tutti! Well, here we are again a month or so later. I'll start with the most recent event: end of the semester party. 2 weeks ago was the official end of our semester so of course in order to celebrate a great semester with our students, we had an American grill out! Of course, what do you have at a grill out? Barbecue, Corn on the Cob, some kind of salad, bread and potatoes. Or something like that. The hardest things on that list are the barbecue and corn on the cob. Barbecue was pretty simple because we looked up a recipe online, corn on the cob though was a little bit of a stretch. Italians say that corn on the cob is food for animals...but luckily one of the grocery stores in a town close by had some so we were saved. The food was wonderful and the students seemed to like the setup. It was sad to think this was the end of my time really teaching English. Most of my students have said they would like to continue through the summer so I will get to see them still for sure, but this party was kind of the beginning of the end.

Pre-party Pictures



the corn

they all start coming...

Some of my students





Now, there is the Harding Art Group, 16 students 3 professors and one of the professors 2 daughters staying at the Bible School.  We are responsible for making/setting out breakfast the days they are here(monday through thursday) and one of the big meals each day. This is my second summer to do this sort of thing but man, I truly appreciate now all the times there were more than 10 people eating a meal at someone's house or a retreat or whatever. All of the people in this group are very courteous and respectful and fun. It's so cool to come downstairs and see the living room full of people working on some kind of art project.

More next week hopefully. Thank you to all my supporters and all the prayers people have said for this program and specifically for me. It makes the work here possible. Until next time!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Teaching Gigs

Carnevale(Fat Tuesday) at the Preschool - Every Tuesday Kelli and I go to the Preschool close by and teach the 3, 4 and 5 year olds a little bit of English...mostly colors, animals, fruit, etc. (Side note: The past 2 Thursdays, we've gone to the school and had breakfast with the teachers of the kids, and they were very thankful, as were we, and today when we came to teach, it was even more special than before.) Anyway, Fat Tuesday is a big deal in Italy so the preschool had a whole day planned to celebrate this event so they said we didn't need to teach English but would love for us to come participate and see the costumes. Kelli and I only stayed for a little bit, to say hello and take pictures of the adorable "Spain" costumes. The same day, the nursing home close by that we've been helping out at, invited us to their Carnevale party. Laura made a video of that and I think this link should work: facebook carnevale video

Turkey Dinner - For Thanksgiving Dinner at the Bible School, we, of course, had turkey and one of our friends, Elizabeth Watley, donated a few and we had one huge one left over so we put it in the freezer to save for another day. At the end of February, it was time to take the big bird out of the freezer and invite our students/friends/strangers to feast on this turkey. We decided to have it on a Thursday, since that is the day we have set aside specifically for visiting students, church members, or anyone we think would be encouraged by a visit. The rule was, everybody invites any 2 people you want...kind of a, guess who's coming to dinner thing. I invited Lisa and her son. Lisa is a lady that is a student of Debbie's really but she has been coming to Monday Night Bible Study and church since January. We really did invite lots of different people...I even asked the the lady that works at the grocery store but sadly the guy who was supposed to replace her had called in sick so she had to work a double shift. I go to that grocery store at least 3 times a week so it wasn't completely weird that I asked her. This was a great success and I think we will do something like this more often for Thursday visits.

Library Reading - When there is a Harding Group at the HUF villa, they volunteer every Friday for one month at the local library to read a book in English to the kids of the community. Usually, they are gone for at least 2 Fridays of the month so we go and read the kids a story instead. The kids are so curious and eager to show what they already know about English. This month, they were only gone 1 Friday so we read Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?.  After Peter 2 read the story, we split up into groups and reviewed the vocabulary and talked about other animal names they knew.  Then we played several games, a matching game, a relay game and then animal charades(act like an animal and the other kids had to pick what it was). 

Renata's Class - Renata is one of my students that teaches English at a middle school close by and has been coming to the Bible School for over 15 years. She has been a good friend since I've been here and has even invited me and the other female avanti workers over to have dinner with her family...always a treat. Anyway, she mentioned the possibility of me coming to speak in one of her classes so the kids could practice listening and learn a little bit about the United States from an American. At the end, they asked questions about Texas and one of the more interesting questions was about how I fell about the Death Penalty and if it really does still happen in Texas...yikes. I'm not sure if I was thinking about the death penalty at their age. I did get to inform them that Chuck Norris is not as tall as they might think, that he is only about 5'10". I got to share with them why I was in Italy and how I got here as well which I made sure it would be ok to say something like that beforehand because you all know how it is now in public schools, you never really know what's ok and what's not. I had a great time and I know Renata really appreciated it.

That's all for now. Love you guys!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Full February

Howdy y'all! As always, the work here has been busy, emotional, and rewarding. I wrote down all the things I need to write about and there is a list of about 14 things! In order to not bore you with one really long post I'll break it up into several smaller posts. Here it goes...

To start off, pretty much right after the newbies, Peter and Melissa, arrived, we had a Cooking School on Friday and a Ping Pong Tournament on Saturday.

Cooking School, one of our usual Friday night events, was the night before the Ping Pong tournament and as always we had a great turn out. We served: Potato Soup, Cheddar Garlic Biscuits, and lemon cheese cake bars...delicious.

The guys chopping away.

Homemade rolls in the works...6 batches...yikes

The Ping Pong Tournament was for our students and members of the church and really anyone else who wanted to come. Besides having a great time, we got 3 new students. Sad to say, I did not win but I did make it past the first round. A man from the church in Prato won, Luciano,  and I'm sure he will be back March 24 to defend his spot at the top. It was such a big hit, everyone wanted to do it again so this time we will have it at the church building and use 2 tables (if we can get another one there).  We had a chili supper and I got to make the chili. Since we didn't know how many people were coming, I made enough for about 30ish people...lots of chili.(Don't be too disappointed, but yes, there were beans in the chili.) We did end up having a little bit left over but we like leftovers.

Pre-game warm ups
The next Saturday was "Women's Day" for the women of the churches in Tuscany. It was Florence's turn to host the event so we hosted it at the Bible School. The topic for the day was "Fratellanza" or Community and we all watched a video done by Francis Chan under this title. The 15 or so women that came seemed to enjoy the day and the conversation. Before we got started on the discussion, we had prepared an American breakfast: biscuits and gravy, breakfast casserole, muffins, yogurt, juice, hard boiled eggs, fruit and coffee. All of the women that came were told in the invitation bring the name of a lady who needed encouragement so, after the discussion, we wrote letters of encouragement to all of these ladies and signed and mailed these letters.

One of our "old" students, Clizia, who is not old but is going to college now so she doesn't have time to study English with us on a regular basis, was at the cooking school and she invited us all to her new apartment for lunch one day. It's awesome and I know she really enjoys having the place to herself. Her apartment is actually her dad's art studio but he is graciously allowing her to use it as an apartment while she goes to school. One Saturday in February, we went there for lunch and had crostini(bread/toast with stuff on it), spaghetti, and rotisserie chicken. Clizia and her family are a very special part of the Bible School and I know it wouldn't be the same without them. I am currently studying with her mother, Monica, and while my parents were here, they invited us over to there house for dinner, which is a real honor.
piano time
some of the girls...clizia is the one on the right
Leg wrestling demonstration...I'm pretty sure laura won

After I got over losing, we all stood around talking and appreciating the art in Clizia's apartment. I'm really glad she invited us over and that we got to share the afternoon with her, her mom and sister.

More to come soon:)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Taranto, Thanksgiving Number 2, Thinking, and The New Arrivals

Thanksgiving in Taranto
First things first. Eric and Jessica came up to Florence some time this past Fall and Jessica and I talked about me coming down to Taranto to help with what they do there and with the Thanksgiving meal they were going to put on for their students and the church members. So, I decided to go down for the actual week of Thanksgiving because we waited to do the Bible School Thanksgiving meal when David and Debbie got back from their trip to the States.

It was such a great trip and very interesting. Andrea also came down to help from Ferrara. None of us had ever cooked a full Thanksgiving meal and definitely not a turkey. :) Considering that, everything turned out pretty well. We started a few days ahead of time and got everything peeled and cooked, except for the turkeys, so all we had to do was preheat. We had baked green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, 2 TURKEYS, apple pie, pumpkin pie, and pecan pie. The only thing that totally flopped was the sweet potato casserole and I think that's because what we actually got was some form of a yam at the market and the topping tasted funny. Eric and I went to the food market to get some sweet potatoes, because they don't have those at the grocery stores here, and we saw something that looked like sweet potatoes and decided that would work. and it did but then something about the topping was a little weird...oh well. live and learn. Eric and Jessica had invited their students and the church members from Taranto and there were about 35 people that came to the meal. I think the crowd favorite was the stuffing and mashed potatoes. Lots of hard work but so worth it. I loved being there with Eric and Jessica and Andrea for almost a week getting to see and help with what they are doing and just talking and catching up. Love you guys! Jessica has some pictures of Thanksgiving up on her blog if you would like to see them:

Thanksgiving and End of the Year Party
Back to Florence! On December 10, a week and a half after David and Debbie got back from the States, we had a Thanksgiving meal with our students as an end of the year party. If I didn't get enough peeling/chopping in in Taranto, I sure did this go around. Lots of food, Lots of dessert, Lots of work, but Lots of fun too. Ermenita was in charge of decorating and one of the things we did was have strings of leaves hung on the ceiling. She's so creative and it looked awesome. In the dessert category, we made apple pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and chocolate pie. We had 3 different kinds and 2 of them were made in the microwave. I got one of the microwave ones to make and it called for a meringue. For whatever reason, I thought I could do this by hand...For all of you that know how to make a meringue you know this is a terrible idea but of course, I started and couldn't go back and use a mixer (not because it would mess up the meringue but because I'm stubborn). At least 20 minutes later, I had a beautiful meringue and a sore arm. Anyway, the students loved the food. We had a pamphlet for the students on Thanksgiving and Maria Lisa(Debbie's student) and I read a short history of Thanksgiving and it went well. After everything was cleaned up there were still people there so we played Pictionary with them which was a great end to the evening.

Side Note: After the meal, our choir sang some of our songs that we had worked on. This past semester, we had 3 Friday night events: movie night, cooking school, and choir. David and I were in charge of the choir and in November we decided to meet every Monday night because if we wanted to perform somewhere, 2 rehearsals wouldn't be enough. It worked our great and we sang at 2 nursing homes. I think David got it on video, but I don't have it right now. After we were done singing at the first nursing home, one of the old ladies got up and sang the last song back to was so cute. The song is called "tu scendi dalle stelle" (you fall from the stars). We also sang "It came upon a midnight clear", "Joy to the World"and one more. The second nursing home we went to was a "Nursing home for traveling circus workers". At first I thought, what in the world, but it was so cool. The people there had worked all over the world and spoke several languages. They had been choreographers, tight rope walkers, ice skaters, and the person in charge of the animals. So cool! Valentino, one of the men in the chorus, introduced us to them and something really nice and true. He said that it was a pleasure to sing for them and how strange it was to be entertaining people that had made their living entertaining. I hadn't thought about it like that before. Anyway, it was a great way to get closer to our students and spend more time with them and serve the community.

In September, it had been one year of being in Italy for our team. We all individually started to evaluate what we are doing here in Italy and what we could do better the following year. In November, we all realized the other ones had been evaluating as well and talked about it all together and it was great and when David and Debbie got back, we presented our ideas to them and here is what came of all of that: Be involved at the nursing home that is close by(they have some kind of activity they do everyday in the afternoon), feed the homeless, and do more with the members in Florence and our students outside of lessons. "Visitation" was one of the things we saw that was a beneficial and Biblical thing to do and so we decided to split up into 2 groups, instead of just one big group, and visit people more often this way. Ryan and Laura did some research on other groups that are already feeding the homeless and there is a group every night of the week that feed the homeless and Sunday evening was the night that the group needed the most help so now, every Sunday, we go to the train station in Florence and help hand out food and talk with the people that come. This is something that I thought would be completely different than it was but now that I've done it, it's challenging but not in the way I thought it would be.  As for spending time with our students, that's something I haven't been as good as I could've been but it's already been better with the beginning of this semester. Anyway, it was great to sit down and reflect over what's been going on and how we can as a group and individually make it better.

The New Arrivals
So I just realized I never officially introduced you to Kelli Click. She came in September and has brought a new energy to our group and we love her! Here is a bio that she wrote for our newsletter:

"I was born and raised in Lubbock, TX. I went to Lubbock Christian Schools from Kindergarten through my Senior year. It was a great experience. I have one sister three years older than me, who recently got married and is living in Colorado. My mom works at Lubbock Christian University and my dad works at Texas Tech University.
I attended Harding University and majored in Marketing. I was involved in the Delta Gamma Rho social club and also worked as a Resident Assistant for two years. In the summer of 2009 I had the opportunity to do the HUF program.  I have grown in so many ways through Harding and have learned a lot about God, others, and myself.
After attending Harding and graduating, I decided to stay one more year in Searcy. I worked for a few months at a small retail store, followed by a job at Harding in the College of Business as an Administrative Assistant. This job was a tremendous blessing.
December 2010 was when I started thinking about Avanti Italia. After learning more information about the program and talking with some of the current workers, I decided to dedicate the next 2 years to this good work.

I arrived in Florence on September 4th. I have been going to language school and am also teaching 4 students. It has been one of the most unique experiences I have had. I have learned so much in such a short period of time. Everyone has been welcoming and helpful in this period of transition.  I am looking forward to seeing what else God has planned for the work here."

And these are our newest members, Melissa Fabry and Peter Bell, now to be known as Second Peter.
Melissa is on the far left and Peter is second from the right. They arrived a week ago exactly and start language school Monday!

They have both really jumped into everything and helping around here. They are real troopers. Here is Melissa's Blog if you'd like to know more about her:

Anyway, Love all of you and thanks for the time we got to spend together over New Years break!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

HUF, Harvest and Halloween

As you know, the HUF program here in Florence is very active and invites us and our students to many activities. There are three that I have personally participated in most recently.

The first would be the grape harvest in the beginning of October. I did this last year as well and man, it was so interesting and gross last year. It had rained for several weeks and the grapes were moldy and the ground was really muddy. This year on the other hand it was perfect. There had been just enough rain but the ground wasn't too muddy and the grapes were gorgeous and not so low to the ground. Awesome! It went much quicker and we would fill up the buckets before they could empty a load so we could continue to harvest more grapes. Afterwards, there was a cookout with big slabs of bacon, ribs and garlic bread. It was so delicious!

The next event was the olive harvest, which was only last week. Harding has probably 50-100 olive trees around it's property and each Fall, the HUF students help harvest them. I went up for an hour or so since things are staying so busy at the Bible School and helped with the harvest. It's very different than harvesting grapes and makes you appreciate olive oil a lot more.

That night was the Halloween party at the villa. Kyle asked the Avanti workers to play a part in the Haunted Walk they do for the students. How it works is, Kyle or Mona take a few students at a time around the grounds of the villa telling scary stories about Scandicci or the villa. My role was to be a ghost of a girl that was always late and one day she got left and now, on Halloween every year, she comes back to haunt the villa. It was fun and if you've ever been to the villa, you know it's pretty easy to make it scary.

This next part has nothing to do with HUF but happened the weekend before the olive harvest and Halloween party. The church where Andrea is working hosted an area wide retreat and invited us to come and be a part of it. So, we left Saturday afternoon and arrived in Bondeno a few hours later. There was one speaker that evening and then we all went out for a pizza, stayed in homes, and the next morning came back to the church building for worship and a meal. I stayed with a girl named Esmeralda...I say a girl but she is actually somewhere around my age. She was very sweet and even though it was just for one night, it was nice to get to meet her.

Me and our newest Avanti Member, Kelli

It was great to see Andrea again and all the work she has been doing. She and some of the other young people have been painting the building and she worked very hard in helping organize this weekend. Great job Andrea!

Thursday visits

In honor of tomorrow being Thursday, I've decided to write about "visitation". Visitation is not what you might think, we do not go every Thursday for what we call visitation in the States. Visitation is where we go visit a member from the church, or a student, or someone that we would like to get to know better.

Here are a few of the people we've visited:

Maria Teresa and Emma and their kids. They are all from Honduras and just recently started coming to the church in Florence because they were taking the bus to the Prato church but it was too difficult with all of the kids so now they are here! Hooray. We went to the park and played and had a "merenda"(snack) with them after the kids got out of school.

Mario is a retired man from church and with out him, things would fall apart. He is a true Florentine and has been here forever. He came to the Bible School for lunch and each of us had a question to ask him. We found out so many interesting things about him. He has literally been in Florence since the flood...the one in 1966 and he also has pictures of Florence during World War 2 and the flood. Really interesting stuff.

Niccolo is another retired man from church and he came to the Bible School and we celebrated his birthday. Sadly, I didn't get to talk to him as much, but he is a firecracker, let me tell you. I'm sure we'll have him over again sometime and I will get to talk to him a little bit more.

Christina is from Brazil and she works at a nursing home in the Alzheimer's ward. As you know, Laura and I are at the building Thursday morning to do the weaving class and Erme comes a little later to have a Bible study with the mother, Maria. So, if we do something for lunch for visitation, usually it is around the church building. There is a pretty good pizza place close by and that is where we went with Christina. Once again, I was at the other end of the table so I didn't hear all of what she said but afterwards, Laura and I went back to the church building to weave some more and Christina came and we talked until it was time for the Conversation Class that night.

Last Thursday, we decided to visit Elizabeth Whatley, the director of the Pepperdine Program here in Florence. She is always doing something and this Thursday her plan was to plant 700+ tulip bulbs in her garden at her house! So, instead of cancelling the visit, we went and helped and I know she appreciated it. We brought a picnic lunch and drinks and after we ate, we started to work. There were 8 sections to be planted and only one of them didn't get planted and she said that was probably the easiest one so it wouldn't be a problem for her to do the next day. Success!

(Sorry, I don't have anymore pictures right now.)

These aren't in order and are just the most recent "visitees" but maybe you have an idea of what Thursday Visitation is now. I think this is one of the best things we do here and that it is part of what we're called to do as the church. I'm guilty of this as well, but I would go to church say hello and ask how they are and then never really found out about the person. Now, especially the people we've gone to visit, it's more meaningful to see them on Sunday mornings. I know it's a continuous thing to get to know people and be part of their lives but I know this is atleast a step in the right direction.

God Bless all of you and thank you for all of your encouragement!

Monday, October 17, 2011

And we're off...

The new school year has started and the craziness begins. Officially, our lessons started 3 weeks ago, but 2 weeks ago was when all of my students started coming. This semester, I have 12 one hour time slots. 11 one-on-one classes and one group grammar class. Registration Night, we had around 20 new prospective students show up and my parents were still in town, so they got to meet some of them. I wish you all could have been there to see my mom and dad with the Italians. It was great.

On that note, my parents came to visit! We went to Rome first and saw what there was to see and more. My parents were lucky enough to experience a real live strike, and not just any strike, but a "general" strike. That means that it wasn't just the buses that stopped running, but all of the museums and exhibits were closed as well. Fun. No worries though, the churches were open so we took the time to see those that day. We met with the church in Rome  twice while we were there and the second time we all had dinner together at the building...gotta love pizza. After Rome we went to Naples and Pompeii and we all loved it. Some people might cut Naples from their trip but I'm so glad we went. The people there were very friendly and Pompeii was one of my favorite places that we visited. That concludes the first week. The second week was spent mostly in Florence and then one day in Venice. I know what you're day in Venice!...but that's all we could do. Like I said before, they got to come to student registration night and it was great to see two parts of my life come together.

My schedule is similar to last year to where our days to have lessons are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and then Thursday is set aside for visiting someone from the church, Conversation Class and Bible Study at the church building, and Friday is physical Friday, where we do something to clean up the Bible School or go help someone else doing something similar. There are a few changes this year to my schedule which includes teaching at the 'Asilo Nido' (preschool) and teaching a weaving class Thursday morning at the church building. Yes, I know...weaving class.

This summer, Laura and I went to a little town near by called Stia that the Harding students visit with HUF. There is an old mill and a museum in the old weaving factory. The lady that works there, Angela(great name right), teaches people how to weave and Robbie asked Laura and I if we would like to learn and then teach others how to weave on the looms he bought for the HUF students. Of course we said yes and spent 2 full days learning the basics of weaving. Laura made a video of it and interviewed Angela on what she does. Very interesting.  Weaving Video on Facebook So now, on Thursdays, Laura and I are teaching a mother and 2 of her daughters how to weave and make bracelets. This family consists of 7 children and the parents and neither one of the parents have a consistent job so this will hopefully be a way for them to make a living. So far, we have had 3 lessons and they learned how to measure out the yarn, put the yarn on the loom, actually weave the yarn and make 2 different types of bracelets. They're doing so well and it's great to see the progress they make each time. I'm sad to say that with this family at first, I was very reluctant to interact with them at all. They were different from me in so many ways, but I'm so glad this opportunity has come and that we get to spend time together each week. It gives me an opportunity to see a little part of what their life is like and share our lives together and hopefully show them Jesus. Please pray for the work here and especially this family and all of our interactions. Until next time!