In the ESC program, I will spend one year in Italy. One month is already gone, so eleven more to go. I work in a small town called Finale Ligure about 20 km from Savona.
I don’t know exactly how to translate the name of the institution but they call it “ludoteca”. Basically the kids are in the afternoon sessions here. What was surprising to me was that every child was very calm and direct. At first I was a little scared of this whole thing because I had never worked with children before and i didn’t know what to expect, but I was surprised because it’s so much easier and more fun than I first though was gonna be. Language differences sometimes cause problems, especially when there are some minor conflicts between them. And I can’t tell them to stop because I don’t speak the language. So when such a thing happens, I have to tell an instructor to make it right. But such cases are very rare and not serious at all.
And also, I feel like that this environment helps a lot in the process of learning the language. Sometimes the kids ask me to read them out of a book, but of course I don’t understand anything and I wouldn’t call my pronunciation very good either, but maybe that’s why they find this situation so funny. However, these books are often illustrated quite well, so I can usually deduce most of the stories from the pictures, which helps me a lot.
But most of the time, we just play board games because they have an incredible amount of board games. I’m also very lucky with my colleagues, as most of them speak English, so we understand each other quite well. That’s what I have a lot of troubles with pretty much anywhere else. Most of the Italians don’t speak English at all or just at very basic level, which I was not prepared for before I got here. But I hope that this linguistic difficulty will only have a positive effect on me, because I have no other option but to try to say some words in Italian and to use sign language for the rest if I want anything.
I think because of this situations I’m starting to understand more and more of everyday conversations as days go by. The language lessons will certainly help as well, but unfortunately they didn’t start too well because two of our three teachers didn’t speak English at all or just a little bit. So in our first lessons, they taught Italian in Italian, and of course I didn’t understand anything nor the Norvegian volunteer, Chris. Two of the other volunteers, Isa and Joao didn’t really have this problem, because one of them is Spanish and the other one is Portuguese, so it was somewhat easier for them to understand what was going on because of the similarity of their languages. But for me and Chris, it was essentially useless to go to the lessons because we felt that we weren’t learning anything. So we talked about this problem with Adelia and from the next week we’ve got another teacher who speaks English and can help us if we don’t understand something.
My working time is currently in a transitional period, because summer camp will start in June, but our opening hours are very varied as of right now. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday morning, i go to Italian classes with the other volunteers, so i’m working on these days only in the afternoons. It is not quite realistic, because my workplace is open only in the morning on Tuesdays, so I usually go to another similar institution with another volunteer on these days. On Wednesdays and Fridays, however, my working time runs from 9 am to half past 12, then there is a 2 hour long lunch break, which for me is really strange, but appearently is completely ordinary here, and then i finish at 6 pm and return to Savona.