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In a school in Italy, an eight-year old boy named Matteo invented a new word in Italian to describe a flower

#petaloso: a flower full of petals e.g. a sunflower, a daisy.

The homework was “find adjectives to describe nouns”. He wrote petaloso and his teacher marked his assignment with red pen; petaloso is not a word, or at least in wasn’t up until he came up with it.

His teacher wrote on the side of this notebook that it was a “pretty” mistake. Yet, the more she thought about it, the more she liked the word; so she decided to send a letter to the Italian institution that adds new words into the Italian dictionary, submitting the word her student had invented.

Their reply was encouraging, saying the word was “beautiful and clear”, but it also said that in order for a word to get into the dictionary a lot of people have to use it. With the help of social networks the word went viral, people’s response was enthusiatic, everyone was talking about it, it was like wildfire!

What I liked the most about this story was how the teacher believed in her student. She didn’t just see it as a mistake, she saw it as an opportunity. I can just imagine the boy will remember this moment for the rest of his life.

What a wonderful teacher! She’s an inspiration!

 

 

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My sister Susana just came back from her Asian trip with lots of stories, photos and interesting gifts for everyone. My gift was a thimble from Thailand, a few cards with paintings of Thai children, and Lorenzo got lots of coins that will go into the coin collection I started for him.

I asked my sister if I could interview her over a cup of coffee and breakfast cookies and she agreed. You can of course, read her blog over at Never Go South  and follow her on her adventures.

In the meantime, grab yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy the interview!

So, for how long did you dream about taking the trip?

For three years! I first came up with the idea when I was living and working in Serbia with Culture Exchange, an alternative coffee shop that I started with some friends. There I met Alex a crazy Greek/German traveler, he was heading to Asia for a volunteer/bike trip and I got so excited just hearing about it, that I wanted to do it as well.

Which countries did you visit and how long did your trip last?

It was 4 months and 5 days. I visited Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietman, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and spent three hours in Russia, does that count? Seeing Siberia from the airplane was the best part of my trip.

Yours was a backpacking trip, how much stuff did you have?

12 kilos! I didn’t take my camera but I had my laptop. If I would buy anything I would leave something behind. It’s a good idea to travel light. When you’re walking around under the heat you curse everything you have in your bag. Oh and I didn’t really take any makeup.

You speak three languages fluently, right and a bit of Serbian? Which one was the one you used the most?

Sign and body language! Seriously! I spoke mostly English and a little Spanish. I never had the chance of meeting Italians and nobody really speaks Italian outside of Italy. I spoke Spanish with Latin American travelers: Mexican, Argentinian, Chilean and with Spaniards of course.

You did some volunteering in exchange of accomodations…

Yes, I signed up to a website “Workaway”, which is pretty cool!  I ended up in an orphanage in Cambodia, in an English school in Vietman, and in an outdoor activities camp in Malaysia where I helped in the kitchen.

Your favorite place?

Bali and Thailand. Bali for the view and nature and Thailand for the people.

At a certain point you ended up alone and you wrote on your blog about “traveling solo”. Where you ever scared and would you recommend it to a girl?

I was never really scared but I was really lucky nothing “weird” ever happened to me and didn’t have any bad experiences. Southeast Asia is safe to travel, and I noticed that 70% of the travelers were girls traveling alone. Most of the people I met were girls. Personally I think  Eastern Europe is a lot “scarier“,  I feel less secure than I did in Asia.

Did you ever get sick?

I was lucky I didn’t get  sick. Well, I got food poisoning twice in Thailand, it was a horrible experience. Of course, bottled water is a must, and avoid ice on drinks.

Any cultural shock?

Not really. Because I’m used to traveling nothing really shocked me. Maybe the food in Vietnam…a lot of foods didn’t look appetizing and I didn’t eat much. 🙂 Japan was a surprise, I didn’t imagine it so westernized, I mean the quality of things…

Any future trips?

I’m going to Serbia, and then back to England and I would like hitchhike around Europe with my dog. I would also like to take a trip to South America, back to the roots so to speak.

Thank you so much for your time and for answering the questions. Any final words?

Any dream starts with a thought, and even if it takes forever for it to happen, if you don’t give up you’ll find yourself living your dream!

 

 

 

 

It all started around September last year when my Italian sister-in-law (devoted mother of two of the rowdiest nephews in the world) asked me if I could teach the boys some English. That way they could, if ever the opportunity arises, talk to their cousins in Canada and communicate with people that every now come to visit who might not speak Italian.

Every Friday afternoon we meet at 5pm for an English lesson at my place, right in my livigroom. At first it was only us, then a friend with two children started coming, another mom came with her little girl for a while, and we had our newest entry in December last year, Laura and her mom. Of course Lorenzo is a regular and sometimes Tony, my sister’s kid comes too.

We go over the days of the week, the months of the year, the colors, the numbers, some verbs, we read a story and we sing a song. Then we have a snack, the moms take turns to bring the snack, and later the children play together.

I started getting some English children’s books and one of the moms lent us hers. Claire had sent me a few for Lorenzo and we are using one of them to learn the ABC’s. The local libraries don’t have English books, and if they do they are far from where we live. So the idea of having a little library with English books  for children was born.

“The Little Library” because when we started out we had 4 books.

One thing led to another and I thought it would be nice to be able to teach English and read stories not only to the 7 children that come to the lesson on Friday, but also to children who can’t afford English lessons or don’t have the opportunity because their parents work or they don’t have the means to get around.

It’s still in the works but the idea is to take Lorenzo, a few books, some flashcards and a blanket and go to the park and have a little English lesson right there and then. For no other reason than to create community, offer a service, spend time outdoors and do something different.

I told Loris about it and he laughed. He always laughs at me but then he said it’s a good idea. He even offered to make me a little wooden wagon to put the books and educational materials inside. I’m very excited about this project especially because it’s something I can do with Lorenzo.

Oh and I discovered that there are some wonderful people who go around with their bookmobile and promote reading. Take a look at some of the stories. I liked the one of the man in Colombia who goes around with his two donkeys to brings books to people who live in remote areas.

My project will be a sort of bookmobile with storytelling combined. Here are some of our favorite books:

“The Curious Garden” by Peter Brown

“Our Dog” by Helen Oxenbury

“We’re Going On a Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle

“Toot and Puddle: Puddle’s ABC” by Holly Hobbie

If you have any book suggestion for our little collection let me know!

I’ll keep you updated! 

2015 in Review

2015 was a fantastic year! Here are a few of the things that made it awesome:

Lorenzo: without a doubt becoming parents was the higlight of our year. He is our pride and joy and even when we are desperately tired because he keeps us awake at night we are so thankful for him. He is growing so fast! He is almost 8 months old!

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Night school is over: it lasted 3 long years and it was a great challenge but looking back now I’m so happy for the experience. Again I had the opportunity to perform with a group of students for the Christmas concert as a way to give back for the 3 years spent at school.

Minimalism: I started my journey towards minimalism, which at the moment means decluttering. I’m making baby steps and if you were to come over to my place you would never guess I embrace minimalism (we even got a new TV) but I do and it’s a work in progress.

Books I read: 

“The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin

“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green

Projects:

1)English lessons for children ages 3-8 every Fridady afternoon at my place. It started as an activity to do with my nephews and it grew from there, now there’s a group of 4 mothers who participate and take turns to bring the snack.

2)”The Little Library” is a personal project of mine to create an English library for anyone who like us is raising a bilingual family and needs English books. I think it will be a success! So far I’ve got a dozen books but little by little it’s growing. It’s a little project that makes me very happy.

3) I started teaching Italian to a group of foreign women and it turned out to be so much fun that I hope I can continue doing it for a long time.

Other Happy News: my friend Claire also became the mommy of a pretty little girl! It’s awesome that we are both moms at the time!

Goals for 2016: Enjoy the little things! Spend time with family and friends! Write a children’s book!

 

 

 

 

Said Old Gentleman Gray, “On Christmas Day,
If you want to be happy, give something away.”

So he sent a fat turkey to Shoemaker Price,
And the Shoemaker said, “What a big bird, how nice;
And since such a good dinner is before me,
I’ll send this fine chicken I bought To poor Widow Lee.”

“This fine chicken, Oh see!” said the pleased Widow Lee.
“And the kindness that sent it, how precious to me.”
“I would like to make someone as happy as I.
I’ll send Washwoman Biddy my big pumpkin pie.”

“Oh my,” Biddy said. “Tis the queen of all pies:
Just to look at its yellow face, gladdens my eyes.
Now it’s my turn, I think, and a sweet sugar cake
For the motherless Finnegan children I’ll bake.”

Said the Finnegan children, Rose, Denny and Hugh.
“Thank you so much, how kind of you:
It smells sweet of spice, and we’ll carry a slice
To poor lame Jake who has nothing that’s nice.”

“I thank you and thank you!” said little lame Jake,
“For sharing with me your magnificent cake
In my basket, I’ll save all of the crumbs
and give them to each little sparrow that comes.”

And the sparrows they twittered as if they would say,
Like Old Gentleman Gray, “On Christmas Day,
If you want to be happy, give something away.”

Author unknown

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas season!!

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A School In Bolivia

I’m building a school in Bolivia.
Just like the little girl in the story who took her father his lunch at the site where a cathedral was being built, and when she announced that she too was building the cathedral a man scoffed her saying
“Whatever you mean by helping to build a cathedral, you are nothing but a little girl”
“Yes, but my father is building the cathedral and I bring him lunch every day and so I’m also helping to build it.”

My dad’s dentist is from Bolivia and a few years ago he started a grass-roots project as a way to give-back to his country. Together with his wife he started taking baby clothes to donate to hospitals; then he sponsored school bags for school chidren and now together with a group of donors he is building a little school for the families of the poor, rural region of Kewiñal

My mom told me about it and ever since I’ve been helping to fund this project. I help with a small ammout each month but it’s so wonderful to be able to say that I too contribute towards the education of children in the other side of the world.

I’m passionate about education and about people who make it possible for children (and adults) to get an education. It’s every child’s right but sometimes due to poverty and other circumstances education is often neglected. Some families are so poor or live so far away that they cannot affort to send their children to school, or to buy pencils and notebooks.

How easily we forget how lucky we are, helping others is a good reminder.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela

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Je Suis Alicia

Saturday morning, November 14th, the world woke up to the tragic news of the Paris dramatic events. Shock, grief, disbelief, anger, sadness and fear were some of the emotions that were expressed by people in the street, in the shops, at the cafés and on the News Channel.

I lit a candle on my window sill that evening. A candle that represented hope, a light in the midst of darkness, a prayer for humanity.

People showed their solidarity by changing their profile photo or writing #jesuisparis, and I personally think it’s a beautiful statement. It’s a simple, powerful way to say without so many words that human life is valuable.

#jesuisparis #jesusisbeirut #jesuisbaghdad #jesuislemonde

Words are powerful, especially if followed by action. That’s why for me it’s important not only to say it, but to actually live it, to live each day promoting peace and social integration.

I’m afraid that in light of the events and out of fear, walls will be built instead of bridges and that will be such a big mistake. Peace and brotherhood are built through positive interaction, by people talking to and getting to know each other. This tragedy should draw us closer not drive us apart.

Of course je suis Paris and je suis le monde but more importantly je suis Alicia and I believe every life is important.

Je suis Alicia and I help with the funding of a school project in Bolivia.

Je suis Alicia and I volunteer twice a week at an Italian course for foreign women, where I teach a group of them how to read and write.

Je suis Alicia and I collect clothes and deliver them to low-income families and homeless people.

Je suis Alicia and I will teach my baby boy that through our actions we can make the world a little brighter and it’s our duty to do so.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you will join us and the world will be as one” Imagine -John Lennon

 

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