Internet friendships

A couple of months ago I watched a movie (Trust) about a young girl who was seduced and raped by an older man she met on the internet. He pretended to be young and slowly made his way into her life, by the time the girl met him in person and realised that he was middle aged, she was too dependent on him to do anything about it.

From Hawaii, Torino and Melbourne we meet in Riccione, with Claudia and Maura.

From Hawaii, Torino and Melbourne we meet in Riccione, with Claudia and Maura.

Of course I felt compelled to talk to Sofia about the dangers of meeting people on the internet. Again! Sof looked at me with a disgruntled look and told me: the only one in this family who meets strangers on the internet is you. You need to be careful!

I dare say she is right. Since my arrival on the big wide web I have met a lot of people and with a few of them I have become good friends. I have been very lucky so far and none of the one I met in real life has turned out to be some kind of creep and after a few emails, sitting and chatting in front of a coffee has felt as natural as if we had always known each other.

It all started when the girls were little and I felt the need to compare my experiences as a mother here, with italian mothers .  I had a solid support network in Melbourne, lots of friends with small children to share the day to day progress of our offsprings and the joy and sorrows of motherhood. So it wasn’t loneliness that pushed me to look on the internet. By joying parenting forum and reading how women in Italy lived such an important time of their life, I found a deeper way to stay connected and keep a stronger sense of belonging. I soon found out that big community weren’t for me and I began one on one correspondence with those women I felt closer to. Needles to say, we found a lot more to talk about then dirty nappies and sleepless nights!

With Carmela, after months of intense correspondence we finally meet!

With Carmela, after months of intense correspondence we finally meet!

I met Carmela who, being married to a muslim man, provided a great opportunity to discuss the relationship with our husbands’s different religious beliefs (Nigel being jewish). Claudia, who was at the time living in Hawaii and had two boys almost the same age as my girls, it was with her that I “chatted” for the first time and I remember spending a New Year’s Eve with her and Angela, in Canada, on icq, well before Skype existed! I met Maura, whom with her five children always finds time to come and see me whenever I am in Italy and Luisa, on the other side of the Ocean, in California, which I know I will meet one day.

These friendships developed through long emails, before Facebook and Skype allowed that instant contact that now we take for granted, and I believe that what we shared in those first few years, in our respective countries, has provided us with memories just as powerful as if we lived in the same town. Whenever our paths cross, virtually or physically, I am filled with the joy and recollection that I get when I meet old friends and I treasure their presence in my life.

Sometimes we cross that bridge, with Elena in Melbourne

Sometimes we cross that bridge, with Elena in Melbourne

Over the years I have kept meeting Italian people on the internet, depending on what phase I am going through in my life. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, a few years ago, I found enormous value in reading blogs of Italian women who where experiencing the same and recently I have had the pleasure of meeting Claudia, who supported me with her professional coaching when I needed a little direction.

Elena is one of my closest friends in Melbourne. We live on different sides of “the bridge” which is almost like living in different countries and we catch up regularly on Skype. We met online a few years ago and after a couple of emails and text messages we decided to have lunch (or was it coffee?) in the city. Sofia was not happy about my unnecessary risk taking. How did I know that Elena was who she said she was? I promised her I would meet her in a public place and I would run if she tried anything untoward. Luckily Elena turned out to be quite harmless and, as Sofia had the chance to experience over the years, a lovely person.

I am aware that I have taken some risks and the internet can be a dangerous and treacherous place but I am also grateful that it has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of wonderful women which I hope will be in my life for ever.

 

Advertisements

Winter in July

It’s July and it’s winter.

IMG_5586

Snuggling up on a typical July day

When I think “July” my mind goes to long, sunny days lazing on the beach. I think of three months of school holidays, eating ice-cream and cool watermelon, evening strolls on the passeggiata and interminable games of calcetto. Yes, I am getting all nostalgic but who doesn’t when thinking about the summers of their youths? Reality check! July in Melbourne is often grey, cold and rainy, it’s more like December but without the Christmas spirit.

I am on the other side of the world, what’s the big deal, of course seasons are upside down too! But after more then twenty years I still find myself wondering what month we are in and feeling a light sense of confusion and of things “not quite right”. I am getting to the stage when I have almost had more winters in July then summers, so how come it still feels so unfamiliar and peculiar? I thing I have to go back to my nostalgic thoughts and reflect on the importance of our childhood memories and perhaps this feeling of confusion is just a way of holding on to those memories.

Sea in July

Sea in July

And this is how I came to accept the strange phenomenon of “Christmas in July”. I first heard of it on a drive to the hills, years ago. I saw a sign that said “book for your Christmas in July dinner”. At the time I laughed and dismissed it is a one off commercial stunt and a very crazy concept. I soon realised that it is not as uncommon as I thought and one year I even got invited by an english friend to a Christmas in July lunch. Evidently I am not the only one who is nostalgic and holds on to memories. As unfamiliar as a cold July is, so is a hot Christmas and I guess we just find ways to make it all fit.

Last night Julia and her friends had a Christmas in July celebration. They had a kris kringle and ate roast chicken (couldn’t quite manage a turkey!) and self saucing chocolate pudding, very festive! They are all Melbourne kids and only a couple of them have experienced a cold Christmas but it was a good excuse to celebrate and spend time with friends, which is what Christmas is all about after all.

Melbourne in July

Melbourne in July

Just to keep holding on to those memories I try to escape to Italy whenever I can and have a “proper” July, but since I am here now I better embrace the cold weather, snuggle in front of the heating, enjoy porridge for breakfast and pretend January is just around the corner!

 

 

 

The nurturing of language

From the moment Julia was born it was apparent that I could never speak to her in English. I always knew that I wanted my children to be bilingual but I never really stopped to think how I would achieve this. As soon as Julia was in my arms I knew that our relationship would always be in Italian and it has been, from that very first moment.

People often tell me I have been so good to “teach” my girls Italian but I have simply spoken to my children in the language I am most comfortable with and I find more natural. That was the easy bit! The fact that they accepted that Italian was “our” chosen language is more of a mystery to me. I hear so many stories of children who stop speaking the minority language and I can’t help wondering how this never happened to us. Could it have been just luck?

112-1236_IMG

Pesciolino Arcobaleno/ Gruppo giochi italiano

There was certainly a luck element. I was lucky to be able to stay at home with the girls in the pre school years. The girls went to kindergarden a couple of days a week but the rest of the time they were with me in a full immersion italian environment! We talked italian, read italian books, sang italian songs and watched italian videos. We also had italian friends to play with. We had a lovely italian playgroup where the girls learned to relate to other children in italian. With so much italian everywhere how could they possibly escape?

But when we did get out of our italian bubble what I found was a lot of support. Everyone around us has always been very encouraging and often people in the street would stop to tell us how wonderful it was to hear the girls speaking italian. When the girls had little playmates coming to our house I would often speak italian to them as well. Of course it was nothing too deep and meaningful but they always understood when it was time for afternoon tea!

In those pre school years the girls always spoke in italian to each other and english was spoken only in the evening, when Nigel was home. He became the language minority in his own country!

They were always very clear what language to speak with who and never warmed to people who were trying to speak the “wrong” language! If an english speaking person would say something in italian they would look perplexed and not really sure how to reply. The same happened in Italy when people tried to speak to them in english.

IMG_1288

At school in Pieve San Paolo

When they started school it didn’t took long for them to start talking and playing in english. The same happened with their italian friends from playgroup. But they never spoke english to me. In fact it took them a while to understand that on some occasion we had to speak english to be polite with people who could not understand.

We travelled to Italy often and that was always a boost to their language. When they were still in primary school we spent six months there and they had the opportunity of going to school. It was a fabulous experience for them both, but they kept talking english amongst themselves!

Julia took italian as a VCE (final exams) subject last year. It was always going to be easy for her and I would have liked her to study more. Still she managed to do very well. After her oral exam I received a phone call from a friend, an italian teacher. She told me that her friend was one of the examiner and she told her about this girl with and italian mother and australian father who spoke so well she could not believe she wasn’t italian. She told her that she was hoping her daughter would grow up to speak just like her. My friend asked a few clarifying questions and she understood that it was Julia she was talking about. It wasn’t too ethical but she couldn’t help telling me. It was one of my proudest moment!

I have to admit that I often thought of what I would do if they stopped talking to me in italian, beside being broken hearted! But now I am confident it will never happen, our relationship is strong and it can only be in italian, my own language, the language I love.