A few months ago in church they announced that if anyone was interested in hosting athletes for the Special Olympics we could call and sign up to do this. Well, with two unused bedrooms in our basement, both containing beds, along with the joy we feel when people come to stay with us, how could we not?? We ended up having three Italian women come stay with us a few weeks ago--two athletes (Alpine skiers) and their coach. It was so neat. Absolutely one of greatest experiences we've had.
There were 42 athletes that came from Italy to participate in the Games and they all stayed with various members in our stake for the first two nights that they were here. Until the Opening Ceremonies the athletes stayed with host families; afterwards they stayed in hotels. We had a day to plan for entertaining our guests, so most of us planned our activities together. We understood they would want to spend as much time together as a group, so we did just that. We drove them around town and showed them some sites.
I was surprised when some of them said they wanted to have pizza for lunch. I'm not sure how well they like it. What I haven't mentioned was that they spoke pretty much zero English, and of course we spoke no Italian. So, without the help even of a dictionary, we did a lot of charades and drawing to communicate during our time together. Freetranslation.com did come through for us with a few words/phrases when were at home. Having studied French, American Sign Language, and Spanish in the past, I found myself resorting to one of those languages whenever we tried to communicate. Every now and then they would get was I was saying, I think. They definitely got it when I said "Mi casa es su casa", so that was good.
One of my favorite memories is of whenever Carla (the coach, and the main spokesperson for the three) and I would really want to tell the other something. We would just start talking in our own language, and get about three or four sentences into it before we saw the look on the other's face: a blank stare of confusion. Then we would start laughing hysterically at the hilarity of the situation. It wouldn't be that funny if it only happened once or twice. But this happened to both of us about 10 times. I guess we just had hope that understanding would come if we just spoke in our own language long enough. It was such an adventure.
Here is the three of us with the three of them. Carla, the coach is on the left, then Giulia in the middle, and Maria Teresa is on the right.
Ray's company is the official mover of the Broncos, so he has connections. He arranged for the group to have a tour of the stadium and then go on the blue turf. Maddie loved the turf.
Look at Maddie by the number 50. Couldn't get enough of that turf! Below are a few video clips of that part of our day.
Later they saw a few museums in town, and that evening we had a dinner for all the Italians and host families. It was a lot of fun. The whole next week the group competed in the games. But the following weekend, after the closing ceremonies, 10 Italians remained--not being able to get onto a flight home until the following Monday. So that Saturday some of us got back together to tour them around. That evening we had them to someone's home for dinner.
One of the Italians, Micaela (above), wanted to make pizza for us. We were excited about that, so we brought all the ingredients for her. After making the dough, she said the pizza was not going to be good because the ingredients were not the same as she is used to. Turns out she was right--not so good. Edible for sure...but just not right. We completely appreciated her efforts, though! Fortunately we had other stuff to eat along with it.
Carla and Maria Teresa
Another good memory with this group was what happened after dinner. There was one interepreter among us, so we were able to ask questions to each other. But otherwise for most of the time, the Italians chatted amongst themselves and so did the Americans. During this after-dinner chatter, out of the blue the Italians spontaneoulsly broke out into song. It sounded like some folk song that they all knew well. It was the coolest thing. So when they finished their song, we broke out into "You are my Sunshine." This continued for awhile, each group singing to the other. Other songs we sang were "That's Amore", "Fried Ham" and also "She'll be coming round the mountain." With that last one the Italians knew some of it and sang along with us. That was the neatest experience...I felt like I was in another time and place as we sang back and forth to each other. I will never forget that night.
As I drove seven of them back to their hotel that night in the Suburban, we found more common ground with Andrea Bocelli, and of course broke into more singing of his songs together. Thanks, Candace, for that CD so many years ago! Wished that I'd remembered that I knew some of his songs earlier--could have been quoting those phrases to the Italians!! I might've been saying a whole lot of I love you's, but hey--I would have been communicatin! At least I knew when to say "Con te partiro!"
February in AZ
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