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I have always been fascinated by other places and other cultures. This was a fascination I probably learned from my parents. Before I was two years old, I had been on over 30 flights. It only made sense that I wanted to live in other places and learn different languages.
I was once told that the true mark that you are fluent is if you dream in another language! I thought that was one of the coolest things I had ever heard! I added it to the bucket list because in true achiever form, it wasn’t enough for me to just live in another country or learn another language, I wanted to be fluent.
Growing up, I always knew that I would live in another county in the year 2000. I just didn’t know where.
When I was an itty bitty baby, my dad was in sales and had a deal that would have paid him enough to be able to comfortably retire and never work again. As a strong Christian, my father gave the deal to God and was fervently praying for favor on it. He even went so far as to tell God that if he won the deal he would give a year of his life to serve God and volunteer anywhere in the world.
Well, he lost the deal.
But he felt God calling him to still give that year of his life, so I grew up knowing and telling people that in the year 2000 we were leaving to go live elsewhere and give back to others.
1999 came and we still didn’t know where we were going to go, but we knew we were called and that God had a plan so we patiently waited calling churches, Christian organizations and non-profits to ask if they could use our family some way or some how somewhere in the world. One day, we got a call from Campus Crusade on our answering machine (yes, those were the days of answering machines and house phones!), describing what they were looking for: our family!
We were told we were needed in Italy.
I vividly remember my family going out to an Italian restaurant and my parents breaking the news to my 9-year-old twin brother, our 2-year-old brother and me. On February 28th, we packed up all of our belongings in 27 U-Haul boxes and boarded the plane to what would be one of the most formative, hardest and best years of my life.
We moved to Grottaferratta, Italy, which is about 20 minutes outside of Rome. While there, my parents led short term U.S. mission teams for 10 day stints in Italy to minister to and love on the refuges of Rome, the Italians, the college students at University of Rome, the people at the beach is Ostia and the many tourists that travelled to Rome.
While they were leading teams, my twin brother and I attended the local Italian speaking school in our town.
Not only were we the only Americans, but we were also the only students who didn’t speak Italian. In the beginning, there were many days where we would sit and do our American homeschooling work under the desks and pretend we understood what people were saying, but we were lost. My parents knew how hard it was on us to go to school everyday with kids that were different than us, in a school system very different than what we were used to and with teachers we didn’t understand.
The following school year, the school had parent-teacher conferences and the way they do them in Italy is very different than America. In this school, they had all the parents come in at the same time and the teachers talked about what everyone was learning and talked about each child in front of all the parents. Can you imagine the lawsuits that would happen if we tried to do that in America? My parents went, even though they knew very little Italian.
At some point all the parents started looking at them and whispering. They checked each other for spinach in their teeth... And then asked one of the mothers who was British and spoke Italian and English what everyone was talking about. She told them that the teacher had just reprimanded all the parents of the Italian students as the Americans had the highest grades in the class, always turned in their homework on time and did all the extra credit.
My parents had to ask again as they could not believe it... Not only had we apparently learned Italian but we were thriving in school and had the highest grades in the class!
A few weeks after, the dreams started coming in Italian. It became second nature to speak Italian and dream in Italian, too. While it may seem like it happened overnight, it didn’t. It was a lot of work and a lot of prayer that made it happen.
A few months later, we moved back to America. Even after we left, I have tried to keep up with my Italian, talking on the phone with Italian friends, visiting as often as I can and writing with my friends on Facebook in Italian. While I am not as fluent as I once was, I will never forget the Italian I learned in those 14 months living in Italy and very occasionally I do still dream in this beautiful language.
I would highly suggest anyone consider adding this to your bucket list!! Living abroad and dreaming in another language are some of my fondest memories.
Grit Gals, Have you ever lived abroad? Ever dreamt in another language?