I somehow rolled into an Au Pair job in Calliano, a tiny town in northern Italy.
As a ragazza alla pari, I live and eat with the family and help look after their two boys and teach them English. It is a new experience for me—I have hardly even babysat before—and at first, I was not entirely sure I should be trusted to be left with children. So far, however, they have survived.
Even in a different culture, children still translate. There remains rowdiness, stubbornness, eagerness, curiosity, and boundless energy. The five-year-old at first absolutely refused to learn from me as I have a different accent than his teacher (all English learned and taught here is British English). The nine-year-old instead loves to learn new words and has started his own notebook of English. They ride bikes, watch Spiderman, read Harry Potter, refuse to go to school, and for all intents and purposes are the same as any American child. If you tore them from here and put them in Indiana, they would adapt quickly.
This job is also a fantastic immersion experience. Gone are my American friends from the exchange program, with whom I would spend weekends and meals. Here, I am on my own, chatting with the parents in Italian and exposing the kids to English. I am contrived to learn new words in order to better teach the kids (who knew “bushes” is cespugli?) or converse with the parents (lamponi are the raspberries in their garden).
Calliano is also hardly a tourist spot; Italians barely know it exists. It is a town of only one thousand people, tucked in the mountains near several other such towns. It consists of a church, a school, a nursery, a bar, an ice cream shop, a few tobacco shops, a grocery store… The streets are silent on Saturdays and everyone is on a first-name basis. Bikes are the preferred method of transport, trails lead through kiwi fields, and everyone has their own vegetable garden. If quaint ever needed a prime example, it would be Calliano.
What this opportunity does above all is fill every hour with things. I might walk the younger brother to school, get some groceries, return a library book, hang out the laundry, teach English to the elder, take a nap, and only then will it be time to make lunch. Here, with a true Italian family, and a young one at that, every day is an adventure.