Discovering Melbourne, one basketball court at the time

I am not a keen driver and I don’t like sport. In particular I don’t like driving at night and sitting in cold (or very hot) venues watching people chasing a ball. How did I find myself spending all my friday nights driving around unknown outer suburbs, searching for basketball courts?

It is well known that Australians love their sports so it did not come as a surprise when my little Australian girl at the age of 8 decided to join her first basketball team. At first it all seemed pretty simple. Nigel loves his sport and he was going to look after this activity, enjoying every minute of it. For me going to the games was optional. I did sporadically attend and I loved watching my little one chasing a ball and occasionally catching it. I had no particular interest in the rules of the game although I was well aware that the aim of the game was to throw the ball in the basket. The extent of my technical knowledge ended there and I liked it that way.

Basketball champions! Their smiles makes it all worth it!

Basketball champions!

When Sofia started as well my attendance grew, but not my knowledge or my enthusiasm for the game itself. If my daughters were on the court I would try to watch but when they were on the bench I didn’t hesitate to find a welcome distraction in chatting and dreaming.

All this happened on Saturday, mainly in local courts and even though, sometimes, we had to drive further away, Nigel was always at the wheel and I did not have to pay any attention to the road. I just sat back and listen to the music.

All this changed when both girls decided to play representative basketball. I had heard of this friday night competition, where venues could be as far as Geelong (another city…on the other side of the bay…over one hour away…) but I never dwelled on it. After all my girls had some italian blood and I was confident their passion for sport wouldn’t extend to friday nights nightmarish crossing of town competitions.

As it often sometimes happens, I was wrong. They did want to play, they loved basketball, they wanted more and more. It was very simple, I had to be a good mother and step out of my comfort zone, I had to drive to unknown places at night. My basketball honey moon period was over, it was time to get serious.

Although I consider myself a pretty adaptable human being, it did take me a few seasons to adapt to my new condition but then, all of a sudden, last year, I found myself looking forward to the beginning of the season. At first I dismissed the feeling. What was I thinking? Long dark roads, wrong turns, panicked phone calls, cold stadiums…did I forget all that? But the closer we got the more excited I became.

Sof had grown into an excellent navigator, and the gps in my phone helped a lot. We still occasionally got lost, but we always allowed plenty of time for unwanted detours and, generally, we arrived to the games on time. In fact I almost enjoyed the challenge of getting somewhere far and obscure. I had learned to dress appropriately to face the arctic temperatures of some courts and to appreciate the coolness of the rare air conditioned ones, in the hot summer nights.

Once again, once I stopped fighting, I had adjusted!

What I did was look at the wider picture. Let’s face it, basketball was never going to do it! I had to dig a little deeper to be able to find pleasure in the experience.

Because Melbourne is so vast, every suburb has a distinctive character. I have enjoyed getting to a basketball court and finding myself in a different world.

On the road again. Week-end bb tournament, finally a bit of day driving!

On the road again. Week-end bb tournament, finally a bit of day driving!

Driving east, through tree lined boulevards and big victorian mansions I walk through the door and find myself surrounded by blond, tall people, wearing classy casual clothes and drinking bottled water.  A true middle class, white, Anglo-Saxon environment and it is here that I really feel like a foreigner.

Crossing the West Gate bridge we drive through big empty roads, bordered by dark factories and smoke spitting chimneys. The west is the industrial part of Melbourne and even if, somewhere out there, I know there are lovely sandy beaches, I don’t see them and I am left with the awkward feeling of being a long way from home. The stadiums are somehow more cheerful, people are louder and more boisterous. I spot ugg boots and tracksuit pants and I smell hot dogs and chips. I feel hungry and on some occasions, I surrender to temptation!

When we head north I feel more at home as I have spent most of my Melbourne life around here. The roads are familiar and I generally know where I am going, which is certainly a bonus. I like the multicultural feel in the stadiums, the accents and the diversity that makes this world less alien to me.

I analyse and observe people, I embrace different worlds, I experience stadium’s cuisine and I develop my driving skills. No wonder I haven’t had time to grasp the rules of the game and learn to score. There is more to my friday nights then basketball!

 

 

Advertisements

The evolution of language

I am following a very interesting conversation about bilingual children on the Facebook page of Expactclic (a wonderful resource for all expat women and, possibly, men too!) and, as it often happens, it made me realise how much my perspective has changed over the years.

The discussion was started by an italian mother living abroad and wondering (and worrying a bit also) about how her daughter’s italian language and culture will develop and grow.

I remember all too well how I used to be concerned about the exact same issues and went from feelings of helplessness, about not being able to do anything about it, to guilt, for not trying to do something about it.

I knew that, inevitably, my girls were going to be Australian and english was going to be their primary language and I tried to accept this. At the same time I saw parents (with better parenting skills then mine, obviously!)who spent time after school doing italian grammar and I couldn’t help feeling inadequate and a touch guilty.

Nevertheless I did nothing about it. My girls kept talking to me in italian but I never sat down with them trying to teach them the beauty of the subjunctive or the meaning of adverbs and other little grammatical treasures.

I thought of them growing up without knowing the existence of Dante and Manzoni but never mentioned to them the existence of the Divina Commedia and I Promessi Sposi.

I guess I just wanted them the same experiences I had growing up but obviously wasn’t prepared to bring Dante back into my life and sharing it with them!

Was it laziness or was it simply not important enough for me? I imagine it was a bit of both and ultimately they grew up very well and they are caring and intelligent human beings. They can talk to their family and friends in Italy and everyone is thrilled with how they have  mastered the language. They talk in Italian to me and I love that we have this “special” language that is just ours.

I guess I’ve just stopped worrying. I am not sure when this happened exactly, when I left behind helplessness and guilt and started to see my daughters for what they are, individuals with their own experiences and stories.

They didn’t grow up in Italy in the ’70’s and therefore they did not have to sit to analyse sentences and learn poems by heart. But I’ve managed to pass on what is important to me, a sense of belonging to a small town on the other side of the world and the ability to communicate in my mother tongue.

The other day we were in the car chatting and Sofia told me: “E’ ficcato dentro properly? Puoi check?” (Is it in properly, can you check?). I promptly “checked” without thinking twice to what she had just said but I was surprised to hear Julia laugh. All of a sudden the weirdness of the sentence dawned on Sof and I and we all started laughing.

Speaking two languages we always tend to choose what it’s easier, I am aware of doing the same with the girls and with my italian friends, and such mixed sentences are all too common. In this case I think that “ficcato” could be seen as a bit of a slang word, a word that only someone who has grown up speaking italian would use and together with properly conjugated verbs and english words it made for a very complex sentence 😉

Julia wrote it down and I had to share it with you, now it will become immortal!

Dante is possibly turning in his grave but this is a different era and a different country after all!

 

Celebriamo!

Ho finito le scuole superiori nel 1984, effettivamente e’ passato un po’ di tempo e forse la mia memoria vascilla, ma non ricordo nessun festeggiamento particolare, nessuna cerimonia per segnare questo traguardo. Quello che ricordo invece e’ la scena finale del film Grease e la felicita’ dei protagonisti nel celebrare la fine del loro percorso scolastico.

Julia ha finito la scuola  e la scorsa settimana e’ stata una serie di festeggiamenti, con pic nic nel parco e balli sui banchi (quasi come in Grease, mi piace pensare!), e si e’ conclusa venerdi sera con la cerimonia formale della “graduation”. Mi lamento spesso della mancanza di tradizioni in Australia ma questa abitudine di onorare la fine di un periodo significativo nella vita di ogni ragazzo mi ha piacevolmente sorpreso e riempito il cuore.

La cerimonia si e’ svolta nel comune di Melbourne e il luogo stesso gia’ conferiva una certa solennita’ ed importanza. Non sapevo assolutamente cosa aspettarmi e l’unica indicazione ricevuta da Julia era di prepararmi ad una serata noiosissima. La premessa non era dunque delle migliori!

Devo ammettere che negli ultimi giorni (o forse settimane!) mi sono ritrovata spesso sulla soglia delle lacrime e ho faticato a non abbandonarmi alla nostalgia. Ma sono arrivata a destinazione convinta di poter affrontare la situazione al meglio! La serata e’ cominciata con qualche chiacchiera tra genitori e ho subito notato, con sollievo, che non ero l’unica con gli occhi lucidi. Le mamme di lacrima facile esistono anche in Australia!

Melbourne Town Hall

Melbourne Town Hall

Musica, discorsi, premi vari, il riconoscimento degli sforzi degli studenti, in tutti i campi, dall’accademico, allo sport, al coinvolgimento sociale e, infine, la consegna a tutti i 250 ragazzi di un certificato. Effettivamente, guardando l’interminabile lista di nomi sul programma, l’idea di farmi un pisolino mi era passata per la mente! Invece mi sono persa ad osservare e apprezzare questi splendidi ragazzi, salire sul palco, sicuri, felici, pronti ad affrontare il mondo. La cosa che mi ha colpito di piu’ e’ stata la loro individualita’. Si parla spesso di come gli adolescenti tendano all’assimilazione, seguendo le mode del momento e cercando il piu’ possibile di essere parte del gruppo. Ma quello che mi e’ passato davanti, sul palco del Melbourne Town Hall, era una celebrazione della diversita’!

48 etnie differenti, i nomi nella lista facevano pensare a paesi esotici e lontani…Afendulis, Paraskevas, Khalil-Salib… e l’insegnante che li leggeva aveva un talento particolare per le lingue, la sua pronuncia a me e’ parsa impeccabile! Ma cio’ che mi ha colpito di piu’ e’ stato lo stile individuale di ogniuno dei ragazzi, dai tacchi a spillo, alle scarpe da ginnastica, dai vestiti lunghi, ai pantaloncini corti! Tutti perfettamente a loro agio, tutti assolutamente parte del gruppo.

E tutto questo celebrare si svolge prima degli esami, prima dei risultati finali, prima di aver raggiunto il traguardo! Ne parlavo con la mia amica Annamaria, anche lei reduce di una settimana di festeggiamenti della figlia, e ci chiedevamo il significato di questo “celebrare” prima della fine. Quasi come mettere il carro davanti ai buoi! La risposta mi e’ stata data dal capitano della scuola, una ragazzo molto eloquente e simpaticamente “nerd”, nel suo discorso finale. Anche lui, come noi, si era posto la stessa domanda ed era giunto alla conclusione che l’importante e’ il viaggio, non l’arrivo alla meta!

 

My journey through school – high school

We made it to High School!

We made it to High School!

Last monday Julia had her last school concert. “Come and say farewell to our year 12 students” said the school’s newsletter. I have read this so many times during the years. The last senior concert, a big milestone, I am always moved to see how mature and grown up the kids look, standing on stage, confident and proud. And all of a sudden Julia was one of them. Since then it has been a succession of “last times” and here we are, tomorrow will be her last day of school!

Although it feels all a bit sudden, it has been a six years journey. We started by looking at the most suitable school for her. In Victoria students, generally, have to attend the school closer to their residence address. It is however possible to apply to go to a different school on the basis of curriculum grounds.  Because of her interest in music and playing the cello she was able to find a place in a local school with an excellent music program and a good all round reputation and so, in 2010, she started at Northcote High.

Just like with primary school, I had to get used to a whole new system. The first three years all students learn the same basic subjects. Depending on what the school offers, they can choose different languages and from year 8 also a number of electives subjects. Julia had the opportunity to try woodwork and textiles, cooking and Chinese. In year 10  they are able to choose which direction they want to take and decide what subjects to study. It is in year 11 and 12 that they start working exclusively on the subjects they will take to their VCE exams, at the end of year 12.

Northcote High is a very big school for italian standards but this time, unlike in primary school, the classrooms had desks and chairs, a white board and we had to buy books. Not many…but at least some! Students have to wear a uniform. I dreaded the idea at first but I soon got used to it and so did Julia. In the self conscious years of adolescence it was a relief for her not to have to think of what to wear to fit in. They do have “free dress” days every term and occasionally even “themed” days, when kids can display their uniqueness and wear what they like best.

China orchestra tour

China orchestra tour

The music program has certainly been one of the highlight of the past 6 years and it’s one of the aspect of school in Australia that I like the most. The fact that it offers students the opportunity to play an instrument and perform without the need to attend a specific music school. Julia played in the orchestra and the strings ensemble from the beginning of high school. She went on interstate and overseas tours, established long lasting friendships and developed self discipline and confidence that will no doubt accompany her into adulthood. Plus she has tons of memories and a great musical repertoire!

Of course I have had my reservations. Unlike in Italy there is very little homework and studying done at home, the bulk of the work is completed during school hours. There are no random testing, no scary interrogazioni when the teacher picks a student and asks questions about a particular topic, giving marks according to the replys. Exams only start in year 10 and, in my opinion, are not taken too seriously until they get to year 12.

And there are hardly any consequences if a student is not performing well. No failing or have to repeat the year, just encouragement to try and do better next time. Although in principle this approach sounds very nurturing, I am still to be convinced of its potential success.

Home from the second last day, with a signed uniform!

Home from the second last day, with a signed uniform!

Julia has never worked very hard and has always done well but there has been a change in the past two years. She is still doing well but, finally, she is working hard! Her attitude has made me reconsider my doubts as I see her studying with great dedication and interest. Exams will start on the 29th october. She is going through this last stretch in a calm and relaxed way, taking one step at the time, spending time with her friends and playing her cello in between writing essays and reading Wuthering Hights and the Odyssey.

It has being a fabulous journey and, as after all the best journeys, I will be sad and relieved when it’s over.

 

Il fiorire del bilinguismo

Dal momento in cui Julia è nata è stato evidente che non avrei mai potuto parlarle in inglese. Nonostante avessi sempre desiderato che i miei figli fossero bilingui, non mi ero mai soffermata a pensare come avrei fatto per raggiungere il mio scopo. Ma appena Julia approdò tra le mie braccia mi fu chiaro che il nostro rapporto sarebbe stato in italiano e cosi è stato, da quel primo istante.

Mi sento dire spesso quanto sono stata brava ad “insegnare” l’italiano alle mie figlie ma ho semplicemente parlato con loro nella lingua in cui sono più a mio agio e che trovo più naturale. Questa era la parte più facile! Il fatto che loro abbiano accettato l’italiano come la “nostra” lingua rimane per me un mistero. Sento cosi tante storie di bambini che smettono di parlare la lingua minoritaria e mi chiedo spesso come questo non sia successo a noi. Si tratta solo di fortuna?

C’è stato sicuramente un elemento di fortuna. Ho avuto la fortuna di stare a casa con loro negli anni prima della scuola. Le bambine andavano all’asilo un paio di giorni alla settimana ma il resto del tempo erano con me in un ambiente completamente italiano. Parlavamo italiano, leggevamo libri italiani, cantavamo canzoncine italiane e guardavamo video italiani. Avevamo anche amici italiani con cui giocare, un gruppo dove le bambine potevano interagire e giocare con altri bambini esclusivamente in italiano. Con tutto questo italiano ovunque come potevano scappare?

Ma una volta fuori dalla nostra “bolla” italiana ho trovato molto sostegno intorno a noi. Amici, vicini e anche perfetti sconosciuti incontrati per strada mi hanno sempre incoraggiata, ripetendo, sia a me che alle bambine, quanto era bello ed importante parlare italiano. Spesso a casa parlavo italiano anche con le amichette venute a giocare, naturalmente non dicevo nulla di troppo profondo ma tutti capivano quando era ora della merenda!

In quegli anni prescolari le bambine parlavano italiano anche fra di loro e in generale l’inglese era usato solo alla sera quando Nigel tornava a casa. Erano sempre molto chiare sulla lingua in cui parlare e con chi parlarla e non apprezzavano affatto che qualcuno parlasse nella lingua “sbagliata”. In quelle occassioni in cui una persona di lingua inglese si rivolgeva a loro in italiano, rimanevano perplesse e un po’ sconcertate, indecise sul come rispondere. La stessa cosa succedeva quando un italiano si rivolgeva a loro in inglese.

Una volta cominciata la scuola la loro relazione passò dall’italiano, all’inglese. Successe lo stesso con gli amichetti del gruppo gioco. Ma tra di noi la lingua è rimasta sempre l’italiano e non si sono mai rivolte a me in inglese. Anzi, ci volle un po’ perche’ capissero che in certe circostanze, per educazione, era meglio parlare inglese.

Ogni viaggio in Italia, quasi ogni anno quando erano ancora piccole, costituiva ovviamente una bella spinta alla lingua. Quando erano alle elementari abbiamo passato sei mesi in Europa e in quel periodo hanno avuto modo di frequentare la scuola in Italia per sei settimane. Un’esperienza splendida per entrambi anche se, per tutto quel periodo continuarono a parlare inglese fra di loro!

Julia ha portato italiano come materia ai suoi esami finali (VCE) l’anno scorso. Ovviamente sapeva che sarebbe stato facile per lei e avrei voluto studiasse di più. Ma nonostante il poco impegno ha avuto degli ottimi risultati. Dopo l’esame orale ho ricevuto la telefonata di un’amica, insegnante di italiano. Voleva dirmi che un delle sue amiche che faceva parte degli esaminatori le aveva parlato di una studentessa, con mamma italiana e papà australiano, che parlava italiano divinamente, pur essendo nata e vissuta in Australia. L’insegnante era molto entusiasta dell’italiano della ragazza e disse alla mia amica che avrebbe voluto che sua figlia crescesse parlando proprio cosi e ora sapeva che era possibile. Dopo alcune domande chiarificatrici la mia amica ebbe conferma che si trattava di Julia e, pur essendo non troppo etico, mi chiamò subito per dirmelo. Uno dei miei momenti di puro orgoglio materno!

Devo ammettere che ho pensato spesso a cosa farei se le ragazze smettessero di parlarmi in italiano, oltre che avere il cuore spezzato! Ma a questo punto sono sicura che non succederà mai, il nostro rapporto è forte e può solo essere in italiano, la lingua che amo.

(Versione inglese/English version The nurturing of language)

 

Time to travel solo!

Sofia, like her sister before her, started her intercontinental travelling very early in her life. The first time she flew to Italy she was three months old and since then she has always been an excellent flyer but a reluctant traveller.

Giochi con il cuginetto

Giochi con il cuginetto

Unlike the rest of her family, she is not interested in visiting new places, she likes Melbourne and Vallecrosia. Home. Over the years she has been happy to stay at my parents’ house while we explored bits of Europe. During our last beach holiday in Queensland she never came to the beach, a beautiful tropical paradise, because it was not Bordighera’s beach, the only beach she likes!

Sof has always known what she wanted and has never been shy to express it! From the moment she could talk she made it clear that she had two homes, her one in Melbourne and her nonni’s in Italy so it didn’t come as a surprise when, at age 12, she announced that at 15 she would go to Vallecrosia with her friend Abby, for a month of the summer holiday. We barely acknowledged her statement, expecting that in three years time she would have changed her mind but we should have known better. Last year, at not quite 15, her and Abby went to spend a month at my parents’ house and had a wonderful time.

Fare i pelati con la nonna

Fare i pelati con la nonna

On Monday Sofia left for Italy again. This time she will be there for three months. This time she went by herself. She is going to school and spending time with her  italian family.

In the weeks before her departure I went through a lot of emotions and different thoughts came to my mind. I have felt incredibly happy that she has such a strong sense of belonging to my home town and my family. When asked what was her favourite thing about going to Italy she said it was her family and spending time with them. Although I have a small family we are very close. I grew up with my beloved auntie just down the street, my grandparents an everlasting presence in the first years of my life, my brother and cousin always available for a new game or a fight. We lived in a small town and were in and out of each others houses all the time. I took all this for granted but Sofia doesn’t. Her childhood in Melbourne has been very different from mine and she certainly has enjoyed every minute of growing up in a big city, with all the opportunity that this has given her. But at the same time she has been able to grow up experiencing a different lifestyle and gaining a different perspective.

Coccole con zio Bigi

Coccole con zio Bigi

While I acknowledge that my childhood in Vallecrosia was pretty idillic, I struggle to see the positives about been a teenager there and I guess this is why I left as soon as I could! But Sofia, at 15, seems to love all the things I wanted to escape from! She loves the saturday night disco, the same disco my mum used to go and I managed to avoid, looking for more “alternative” entertainment! She loves the passion the youths have for trends and brand names printed on t-shirts, making everyone look boringly similar. I was a hippy in the ’80…no wonder I had to leave! She loves the stylish boys, all charm and  good looks who can’t have a conversation that doesn’t involve calcio. Needless to say, I never managed to charm any of those young, beautiful boys and this is why I still resent them and blame them of shallowness! I admit it, Sofia is right when she says I didn’t fit in because I was a loser and I guess I should be grateful she didn’t inherit my wallflower skills!

Shopping a Milano

Beside dancing and picking up boys, Sofia will have to do some learning as well. She will be going to school three days a week to practice her spoken italian and for a few hours a week she will work with a private teacher to master the mysteries of the italian grammar. As next year she will start her VCE (final exams) and she has chosen italian and french as two of her subjects, she is having some french tutoring as well. France is just around the corner after all!

On monday night we took Sofia to the airport and handed her over to the Qantas hostess who would take her across to her plane. There were no tears and, strangely enough, it felt very natural. I remember when the girls were little and we used to talk about the time they would go to Italy by themselves. When I packed huge bags with every possible snack and change of clothes before undertake that never ending flight, I felt like that time will never come. Little did I know, that moment was just around the corner. I don’t miss those interminable flights with toddlers in tow and when I said goodbye to Sofia I felt just a tinge of apprehension about the long flight ahead (well, perhaps a bit more then “a tinge”!).

Buon viaggio, tesoro!

Sofia has arrived safely and she is home. For the next few months I won’t have to pick up her mess around the house and wash her clothes, I will be able to see her and talk to her on Skype but not have to put up with her grumpy moods. I will miss her cuddles and smile in the morning (well…her “good” mornings!) but  I know that she is with people who love her and will look after her just as well as I would. 

I look forward to hear her stories and, perhaps, learn a few tricks about fitting in better. Who knows, I might even join her on the dance floor one day, but she doesn’t have to know this quite yet!

My journey through school – first step, primary school

Here we start!

Here we start!

Julia is about to close a big chapter of her life, her last year of school is almost over. As we are getting closer to the end, I find myself thinking about these years and my journey through the Australian school system. A journey not always easy and at times foreign and unfamiliar but, ultimately, a journey that left me feeling very positive about my daughter’s education.

My journey started at playgroup, when Julia was barely one year old and the conversation between mothers went to what school to choose and…waiting lists! It was one of those “fish out of water” moments that often happens in the life of us migrants and I sat there feeling confused and slightly inadequate.

This is the first big difference between the Italian and the Australian school system. Particularly at a secondary level, parents often choose to send their children to a private school.  Paying to get an education sounded weird enough to me, but paying to be on a waiting list from the age of one was just beyond belief! I decided that day that I was never sending my daughter to a private school and started my “public school” campaign with Nigel who soon turned the corner and became the first in his family to send his children to a public high school!

Area 2

Area 2

Julia’s primary school was local and a bit alternative, it looked like fun and at the age of five, fun seemed pretty important.

I was used to a very different environment and approach. Classrooms, desks with set places, teachers behind a desk, books and daily homework. Spensley Street Primary school had no classrooms but “areas”, desks were used only for special projects, kids usually sat on the floor, no text books and absolutely no homework. Of course I had my moments of discouragement, asking myself if in this environment my daughter was ever going to learn to read, let alone doing anything else vaguely academic. She certainly loved going to school, where she dressed up, talked about her favourite teddy bear in front of a group of attentive pupils and painted fabulous pictures with her fingers. When I asked the teacher when she was going to start reading, she was now in grade 2, the teacher told me not to worry, she was taking all the right steps in that direction and she would get there in her own time. I must admit I wasn’t reassured, seen that some of her friends where going through the first Harry Potter book while Julia had absolutely no interest in putting more then three words together!

Different ways of learning, using floor or desks!

Different ways of learning, using floor or desks!

Needless to say I was wrong and, yes, the teacher was right. She took her time but Julia did learn to read and developed a passion for books and learning in general.

The way of learning is certainly very different to what I was used to. In primary school there are no specific subjects, no history or geography and even maths seemed to be taught in a very “practical” way. I never heard my girls reciting the times tables like I used to do, but somehow they appear to have learned them. There isn’t much memorising involved in the australian system, the learning is done in a more “organic” way, kids are getting there through their own path. It does sound like a lovely way to learn and still I spent years worrying about my girls path to learning. Could they actually become responsible adults without having learned the structure of the Greek city-states???

End of primary school assembly

End of primary school assembly

As we are approaching the end of her school years I am very pleased with what Spensley St Primary school taught Julia. The move to high school went smoothly and she took with her the skills she learned to help her settle in a more structured environment. High school has been another journey, but I will have to write about that some other time!

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

I am a football mum!

IMG_1853

The team

Girls don’t play football. It is aggressive, dirty and very violent. Girls are gentle, elegant and very, very fragile. Wrong! It is time to change these stupid stereotypes and give girls all the opportunities that boys have. Girls play football and the Fitzroy Junior Football club has decided to move with the times and from this season there are three girls team at FJC. Go girls!

Sofia jumped at this opportunity and joined the under 18 team. I was so proud of her and so excited that she was given the opportunity to be part of the change. My daughter, pioneer in girls’ football!

I arrived late to the first game and I missed one of the girls being tackled to the ground and taken to hospital with concussion. All of a sudden it didn’t seem like such a good idea and when I saw Sofia my advice was: if you get the ball, pass it immediately. Do not hold the ball!

Sofia gave me a disgusted look and told me not to come to her games again.

Ok, I had a little bit of adjustment to do. Pioneering was never going to be easy.

I followed Sofia’s advice and did not go to the next game, but I couldn’t stay away and two weeks later I was back for more, filled with positive thoughts.

Football is a winter game and there was always going to be mud. That sunday it was unseasonably cold and wet for April and there was a gigantic mud pit in the middle of the oval. Boys were playing and they naturally avoided the mud. Very skilled, I thought.

10272676_878658885484989_8289196722576501641_o

Glorious mud!

The girls played a fantastic game even though they did not score one single goal. There were no injuries (certainly a bonus!) and lots of smiling faces. Some of the girls did not manage to avoid the puddle and there was a bit of mud here and there. It was at the end of the game the real mud battle started. Slowly at first, a little bit of mud smeared on a leg or an arm…before we knew it both teams ran to the puddle, jumped in the puddle and literally swam in the puddle. It was cold and miserable but those girls did not care, they were having some primal fun and no electronic device was involved!

It was such a pleasure to watch them. I stood with another mother and we laughed at their silliness. They ran to the changing rooms and showered in their clothes. There were lots of giggles and a feeling of genuine harmony between the girls and for a moment I forgot about tackling, concussions and broken bones and I just enjoyed the atmosphere of joy.

I’ll keep this memory close and bring it out when needed as a little tool to help me endure the rest of the football season!