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Archive for July 15th, 2008

Being Italian, I grew up up with noisy family gatherings, meals that lasted until it was time for the next, and a home that was always open to everyone. I loved the bustle of preparing for the gatherings and the excitement of the events.

As an adult, I continue enjoying a lively home. When the kids were young we had frequent gatherings where other families would come for pizza on the weekends and, as the kids grew, we added formal dinner parties for all.

But what really changed our lives was inviting young adults from other countries into our home. Up With People, a traveling music show, came to our town periodically and we would volunteer to host these talented students. They would stay for four day weekends while the show was on and then move to the next community. These short opportunities of interacting with people from different parts of the world were stimulating for us all. It was fun to hear their accents, compare our worlds and show them a snippet of our culture.

Those moments served as a stepping block for our children into the Rotary youth exchange program. Both our children became exchange students after high school graduation, our daughter to Poland and our son to Japan. The exchanges were exciting and challenging for the kids and us. It was a real character building experience, but that’s a whole other blog! As our children got involved so did we.  We have hosted students in our home from Poland, Austria, Japan, Switzerland and Spain.   Each student enriched our lives giving us more understanding about countries we had never seen.

Since our children had become world travelers, my husband and I decided it was our turn. Both of us teach public school and the schools agreed to grant us a leave for a semester to do music research. We spent most of the travel time in New Zealand, taking side trips to Australia and Japan (thus the photo at the top of the blog). As our children had experienced, we met wonderful people, saw breath taking scenes and ate a plethora of food that we would not have had the opportunity to eat at home.

None of this would have happened without the Rotary club’s support. When our children were on their exchanges we were confident that they were in good homes and had the guidance to learn and be successful. They were trained how to represent our country and how to make the most of their visit thanks to Rotary. By having Rotary exchange students in our home, we understood how hard it was to become part of a foreign country and how open to new ideas one had to be as a visitor.

Want to know more about Rotary exchange? Google it to find out more, or just send me your questions. I’d be happy to help you out! The Rotary Youth exchange has changed our lives. We now have friends around the world.

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Our family has become very interested in international travel. It all began years ago with a lovely picture book “Linnea in Monet’s Garden”. I read this book many times to my daughter when she was young and each time I said, “Someday we will visit Paris and go to Monet’s garden.” As she grew I realized I had made a promise in which I needed to fulfill. I taught quite a few piano students at the time and began tucking some money away with Paris as a goal. When my daughter was thirteen our dream became reality. I had not traveled outside of the U.S. before this so, needless to say, I was beyond excited. With our daughter of an impressionable age and our son also wide eyed at age ten, my husband and I spent a week in Paris and then two weeks in Italy. It was all more than I could have ever imagined. For me, obviously, a highlight was biking to Monet’s garden and entering the walkway with the arbor leading to his home. Tears streamed down my face as I stood on the Japanese foot bridge in Monet’s garden that I had only experienced through his paintings.

Since then, our family has had other amazing trips together and individually. To think that a child’s picture book could be so powerful!

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