Farewell. Hugs, kisses, wet hearts. Have a safe trip. Arrive well.
Then I heave the backpack on my back, a backpack with all my possessions, put my camera around my neck, a camera to catch all the moments expecting me, and take the guitar into one hand, a guitar for the soundtrack for this time. That‘s all. My life on my back I enter the train.
And go into a new chapter of my life.
I can‘t believe it. That I will live in another country for one year. I haven‘t understood yet. That this isn‘t just a trip into the south but that a new home is waiting for me.
With every train stop, I am coming closer to my new life. Stop by stop. I wanted to arrive slowly. I wanted to feel the transition.
Grey september clouds. It‘s inconceivable that in some hours I will arrive under the burning sun of the afternoon. But the air inside the train becomes warmer and warmer. I take off my jacket, change my shoes. The sky becomes clearer and sunnier. The sea appears in front of the window. Wave roll onto the beach. And suddenly the excitement gets out of hand.
Bari Centrale, the voice of the loudspeaker announcement says. I have arrived.
The first night inside a white, bare room which isn‘t mine. I feel lonely.
On the next day I buy a flower. I want the room to become mine.
Some days later it feels like I have already been here for a month. So many new faces, new names, new things, new places, new habits, new language. So much happens. Sometimes I don‘t want to sleep because I don‘t want to miss a moment.
Four months have passed since. One third of the time I will spend here. Time flies too fast to understand where it went.
I became used to the new life. A life in a small town, in another language, in another culture. The magic vanished, but that is good because what would be left after this year if it was only magic. I started to face reality here and reality always has good and bad sides, has challenges that make you grow and surprises that show you that you have made exactly the right choice.
Putignano? Why did you choose to come here? That was the question we heard every day because no one could understand what would lead a person to Putignano for a whole year. A small town in which you have to go to the gas station if you want to drink something past midnight, where going out means going back and forth on the main street. Putignano which has the carnival in February during which for one month everybody is outside to celebrate but the rest of the year is quiet.
In no single second I regret to come to this town. I met so many open-minded and warm-hearted people who are interested in integrating us. Whenever they go somewhere we are invited and not even the lack of reliable public transport is a problem. In the first months we went to so many places that I can‘t count them anymore. Then it became winter and everything became calmer but finally I had the time to really arrive, to reflect my new situation and find my space in this new place.
What fulfills me most is – in fact – my volunteer work. I am working in the social-educative organisation A Modo Loro which provides an afterschool program for children with fewer possibilities in which they receive support when doing their homework and in which special activities like a reading and a theatre course are offered to them. Before starting my volunteership I was warned that I might feel unchallenged. Luckily I can say that I neither feel unchallenged nor overtaxed. Our work is well organised although, A Modo Loro was having international volunteers for the first time. We work from one to six or seven pm. The first part of the day we spend helping the children with their homework, motivating and supporting them. The second part of the day we open the playing room where we provide an activity every day and mind the children while playing. The better we get to know them the more funny, touching, unforgettable moments arise.
It is not always easy to be far from home, to leave your comfort zone, to go out into the world without knowing what would expect you. But for sure it is a time in which you develop, in which you grow and in which you will find happiness.
I can see my development of the past four months very clearly, I learned more in those months than I learned in the four years before. I improve my Italian language skills every day, I am gaining more and more confidence because I realize that I can put my my ideas into practice, I learn how to work with children, how to be responsible for younger persons who need guidance and I notice how much the children start to trust me. I learn how to be stable in struggling situations, I learn how to manage my life without the help of parents, I learn so much about a culture which is different from the one I grew up in. And all this is worth more than any safety I could have back home.