Garden City, USA 1988

La nostra selezione dei diari di bordo di Garden City ’88 comincia con una lettera molto speciale, arrivata alla nostra redazione: l’autrice è un’insegnante che accompagnò i nostri viaggiatori alla scoperta dell’America e la pubblichiamo con gioia!

Lettera di Maria Schulz, ex student exchange chaperone – 31 gennaio 2013
“I had the pleasure in the mid 80’s of experiencing two student
cultural exchanges between Bologna, Emilia Romagna and Garden City, New York. I was a teacher of Spanish at the time and I heard about your organization from an Italian-American colleague at Garden City High School. I come from a family that emigrated from Naples, Italy in 1947. I was a mere child and I was told that America improved my educational opportunity and my family’s economic opportunities.
I was forbidden to speak Neapolitan in public due to the possibility of being heard by those Americans who are prejudiced.
I never studied Italian or spoke it due to the bigotry towards
foreigners that has always existed in America. At my university I chose to major in Spanish and studied French because Spanish was more popular as a choice of study in American high schools and French was more prestigious.
After my Master’s degree in Spanish language and literature I had a semester at the University of Madrid, Spain to improve my Spanish fluency. I became a tenured teacher at Garden City High School and I am at present retired from teaching. I was so inspired by the first cultural exchange with my students in Bologna that a few of my students and I began to study the standard Italian language. On my second student exchange with Bologna my Italian language skills had improved, I was not too hesitant to say that I had Neapolitan roots and upon my return to New York I continued my studies of the Italian language and literature at a New York City University. It was at this point that I was asked by the Chairman of the Foreign Language Department of Garden City High School to teach an elementary course in Italian which became very popular after the student exchanges with Bologna.
I was truly fortunate to meet dynamic, intelligent, charming and generous Bolognese staff and students who made the exchange an enriching and unforgettable experience for me and the total of twenty of my Garden City High School students. Some of the Italian students kept up a correspondence with the American students and with me.
A couple of the Italian students and parents still write to me, email and call on the telephone
. I was invited to one wedding so far and I was invited to meet the baby of one of the Italian students. I was totally honored by these loving gestures.
I feel so connected to the wonderful city of Bologna
. Learning to speak Italian, studying its world renowned literature, and meeting the citizens of Bologna has made a difference in the way I think and care about others. I think it did the same for my students. The trips to Bologna really opened my mind to new possibilities and made me a more enlightened human being. I wish I could contact the 20 students with whom I had my Italian adventure but I cannot. They are in other cities far from their homes fulfilling their careers and living with their spouses. Perhaps some of the Bolognese students might have those addresses.

Affectionately,Maria Schulz,
ex student exchange chaperone par excellence
(according to my students)”

E qui di seguito i ricordi di alcuni dei nostri giovani viaggiatori, tra luci e ombre in una New York bella e contraddittoria.

“Il sogno è un vento che abbiamo stretto fra le mani: eccomi coinvolta in questo volo improvviso, che credevo impossibile, che mi ha travolta senza lasciarmi il tempo di titubare. Dovevo verificare se con queste ali inesperte sarei riuscita a volare. Se volevo vedere più lontano, dovevo salire un po’ più in alto (…) New York ti travolge, ti fa alzare gli occhi al cielo, ti fa impazzire per cercare la luna nascosta dietro a queigrattacieli, ti fa pensare che qui viene decisa una parte del nostro futuro, ti fa sentire cittadino del mondo”. (Federica)

New York è la città dai contrasti più ovvi e drammatici: vi sono mendicanti in giro per le sue strade. Se ne stanno diffidenti sul marciapiede, a volte vestiti appena decentemente e assai di rado a chiedere gentilmente e cortesemente aiuto o un’elemosina. Se c’è lo “sfarzo” del giorno, a Manhattan esiste anche la cupa tristezza della sera che vede rimanere sulle ormai grigie, puzzolenti e sporche strade della metropoli quei poveracci che sono gli ambasciatori di un’altra Manhattan dove neri e portoricani,

polacchi e italiani poveri sono costretti ad un’infelice convivenza combattendo le loro battaglie e disprezzandosi vicendevolmente. Poi al calar della notte si riaccendono nuovi colori (…) tra i giovani, che qui s’incontrano di ogni ceto, razza e costume, sembra esistere però una maggiore unione che tra le persone che di giorno affollavano le stesse strade. Non ho visto bande. Ho visto punks, hippies, neri, bianchi, gialli convivere nelle stesse strade, nelle stesse piazze, riunirsi, cantare, discutere, attrarre l’attenzione, bere e fumare in compagnia”. (Antonio)

E adesso leggiamo le lettere dei giovani ambasciatori di Garden City, pubblicate sul quotidiano “Garden City News” del 2 settembre 1988.

“Ciao Neighbors! The following will hopefully give you a snapshot of my time in Italy. Buses are our main mode of transportation, since my “family” doesn’t own a motorbike and sometimes it seems like most of my trip is pent on a fluorescent orange bus…

Life on an Italian bus: the bus jerks to a stop, the door hissing open. My “sister”, Maria Novella and I climb up and push our tickets into the red box that clicks and marks them with the time and date. Then we sit down. Out the window, bicycles, mopeds, cars and pedestrians fill the streets, jockeying for position. The box-like automobiles are surprisingly agile, able to swerve into the next lane, make u-turnsin the face of on-coming traffic, and avoid scurrying men and women, all at the speed of 65 kilometers an hour. I hold on tighter to my seat. You can’t turn a corner in Bologna without riding on an ancient Roman road, or being embraced by medieval buildings sporting graceful porticoes and intricate sculptures. The “porte”, huge, imposing gates that were once the guardians of the inner city of Bologna, still stand defiantly, and as we pass the one in via Indipendenza, it glares back grandly. The people absorb most of my attention. The women wear theit hair very short or very long, and are dressed in form-fitting jackets with shoulder pads, wide belts, and pants or mini-skirts. They all look like models from Vogue. None wears shorts. I glance down at the well-worn pair I’m wearing and sigh. There’s no way I’ll ever be taken for an Italian native. We pass two girls holding hands. I raise an eyebrow at Novella, but she only shrugs. “Perhaps I’m lacking in culture” I say, but I can’t help chuckling.

My italian is progressing, but slowly. I point out signs on the street and try to pronounce the words for Novella, who is extremely patient. Occasionaly, she bites her bottom lip and corrects my pronounciation gently. “If you say it like that you will probably insult a lot of people.” I blush and grin and try again, promising myself to work on my italian accent, for the English she speaks is a musical array of soft sounds and intonations, and seems much more cultured than my own. If only I had taken Italian in school onstead of French. The bus grinds to a stop, and we exit through the center doors in a crush of people. From here it is only a short walk to the Piazza Maggiore, which is squared off by the first building to have housed the University of Bologna, the unfinished church of San Petronio where Michelangelo was inspired and where Copernicus studied the sun, Palazzo d’Accursio where Clement IV was made Pope, and Palazzo dei Notai, the Palace of the Notaries, one of the most influential groups of people in Bologna’s past. There, by the statue of Neptune, which is undergoing restoration, we will meet the other Americans and Italians, and together explore Italy. Like every other country, Italy has its share of problems. The military walks the airports with machine guns and itchy trigger fingers, Communism wars with Democracy, and the Mafia and terrorism are a very real threat. But, right now, surrounded by the history and warmth of Bologna, I’d rather be here than anywhere else in the world. I’d like to thank the Garden City Community Fund and my family, especially for getting me here, and I’d also like to thank my Bolognese “family” for making the transition to a new way of life such an easy and welcome one. Arrivederci!” (Jennifer)

“Dear Residents, greetings from overseas where I have been immersed in Italian culture for more than a week. During my stay I have had the privilege to observe the cultural differences between Italy (an excellent representative of the European lifestyle) and our home country, the United States of America. America, in all of her grandiose splendor, has one irreconcilable flaw. From a simple perspective, the United States woke up late and missed the Middle Ages. Picture this, a scene common to Italians but striking to the unaccustomed American eye. A once-powerful Roman tower of crumbling red brick stands quietly against the clear Italian sky. At the base, the young Bolognese yell happily to friends speeding by on mopeds while they all listen to the sounds of Terence Trent d’Arby emanating from shiny new Sanyo speakers. As my gaze slowly shifted away I realized how commonplace this scene is to Europe. Americans are, in general, deprived of the ability to relate to history in this way and I am only too grateful for this experience. Our group has visited many other historical monuments but I will not bore you with the details. I can only say how wonderful it is to sense ancient history so close at hand while I can also enjoy the conveniences of the modern world. The friendly compassion of the Italian populace rounds out the vacation nicely. I am forever grateful to the Garden City Community Fund, without whose help the trip would not have been possible. Special thanks is sincerely in order for all of the time and effort donated to our trip.” (“Your ambassador”, Robert)

“Dear G.C. Residents, the month I spent in Italy this summer was fantastic. I was really interested in learning about Italian culture and lifestyle. Before I arrived in Italy I had heard many good things about the country. My first day in Bologna confirmed all the positive stories I had been told. During my three week home-stay in Bologna I lived with my Italian Father, Mother, my exchange student, and her two sisters. My family was very hospitable and went out of their way to do things for me. Some of the activities I did with my family were travelling to places such as Venice, Ferrara, Ravenna and Zocca, where thay had a summer home. Venice was the highlight of those travels. The city was extremely beautiful and it was interesting to see people riding in boats through the canals. I spent my week-ends in Zocca which was about an hour from Bologna. Zocca is a small town in the mountains, and from my family’s house I had an incredible view. The social aspect of Bologna is very lively and exciting. It seems that there were activities and entertainment for all ages. My week of travelling to Florence and Rome was an experience of its own. I was amazed at how gorgeous the Vatican in Rome is. Many of the buildings in Italy were built around the 1600’s. The architecture was done with great care and is very detailed. I ran into many friendly people who were willing to try to communicate with me. Another thing I enjoyed very much was the food, which was delicious. I want to thank the Garden City Exchange Program for giving me the opportunity to experience the culture of a foreign country and a memorable summer. Sincerely” (Jill)

“Dear Garden City, I have been in Bologna for a couple of weeks and it is very nice. Bologna is between the northern and the central part of Italy. It’s close to many famous cities such as Florence, Venice and Ravenna. The culture of the people is different. They like their artistic artistic buildings and churches. The people here are much more cultural than in America. My Italian father works at a bank and ny Italian mother is a secretary for a supermarket. The social life in Italy is also different. The kids here are much more independant. Most of them have motorcycles. The younger people can do everything the older people do. We have visited many famous cities – Venice, Ravenna, Ferrara. In Ravenna we saw some churches and we went to the beach. In Ferrara we saw a very old castle and in Venice we went to San Marco. In Murano we saw glass being made. Soon we’ll be visiting Rome and Florence. I would like to thank the Garden City Community for making this trip possible.” (Scott)

“Ciao Garden City, my name is Jeff and I am happy to say that I am one of the fortunate eight people who received the chance to participate in the Student Exchange experience this year. I am staying with the Merlo family, who live on via Agnesi, about a half mile east of the town center in Bologna, Italy. Francesco, my exchange brother, and I are getting along very well. I actually almost feel like I am part of the family. We have been going to the beach, the disco, and I have met a lot of his friends, with whom I have also been getting along well. Francesco’s family is very nice and – don’t let my Mom near this letter – I haven’t been able to lift a finger when it comes to dishes, laundry. etc. This is not to say, however, that I haven’t tried. One time at dinner I got up with my dishes and started towards the sink, when Francesco’s mother performed a mercurial feat of speed by jumping up and intercepting me before I could get to the sink. Well, at least I tried, right? More seriously, the tours we have been on have been incredible, beautiful, and most informative. We have been to the Bologna town center, the University of Bologna, Ravenna and Ferrara with a few historical sights in each of those cities, amd Venice, which was absolutely beautiful. From seeing the ancient or medieval wonders of each of these cities, I have been permeated with an overwhelming sense of awe and respect for this wonderful culture. San Vitale was, in my opinion, the most awesome of all the wonders I have seen. The incredible amounts of time and effort that went into both the architecture as well as the incredible artwork inside was unbelievable, and to think that these things have been around for hundreds of years (about 600) is phenomenal! I want to thank my parents, the GCISE, and the Community Fund for making this experience possible. I don’t think there could be a more unforgettable or more fulfilling way to spend a summer of one’s life. Thank you again, Sincerely.” (Jeff)

La delegazione di Garden City '88 incontra il Resto del Carlino

“Dear Garden City Exchange Program, from the exclusive fashion boutiques on the Via San Felice, to the incredible, towering size of St. Petronio’s Basilica in the center of the “Piazza Maggiore”, Bologna is both fascinating and fantastic! Perhaps it is the striking difference in the city’s overall appearance, perhaps it is the distinctive, intangible quality characterizing the Italian lifestyle — simply stated, living in Italy with my exchange family is nothing less than an overwhelming experience. I am staying in the historical quarter of Bologna, about one half mile to the west of the city’s center. My exchange brother, Antonio, attends a technical high school in Bologna, where he has just completed his third year of studies. With his parents, or on other occasions with the exchange group, we have travelled to a number of important cities and attractions in Italy, including Ravenna, Ferrara, Venice, the Adriatic Seashore, and even the Dolomites, a rugged mountain chain in Northern Italy (just south of the Alps) tht provided quite a challenge in our attempt to scale one of its peaks! Yet, above all else, we have been guided through the incredible city of Bologna, touring places ranging in variety from the city’s historical center to the local ice cream manufacturer. Thoughtful excursions like these have enhamced my appreciation and cultived my understanding of the city.

Bologna is regarded historically a medieval city, quite typical in layout, yet unique in terms of culture, expression, and historical significance. Bologna proudly lays claim to the oldest university in Europe which this year celebrates its 900th anniversary as ‘the champion of modern academic endeavor’. Additionally the city contains a staggering number of decorative and ornate churches, each and every one different in individual flavor and character, yet all breathtaking, and extremely effective in creating even profound impressions on first-time visitors like myself. Bologna indeed is filled with an abundant supply of important landmarks — historical, architectural, and artistic — that serve to correctly convey the city’s inherent balance of history and beauty. But, throughout my stay here, I have come o realize that one need not venture to any of the extensively detailed churches, edifices, museums, or statues to discover that the “history” is everywhere — from the porticoed storefronts to the winding medieval alleyways to the Latin inscriptions above the doorways and windows in some of the older structures. In this sense the culture and history of the city are not merely observed, they are experienced.

Yet Bologna does not serve juat as a city-wide museum of the past glory, rarher it is a highly active city, in every “modern” regard. In this sense, there exists yet an additional dimension for the delight and surprise of the foreign visitor: the constant blend of the old and the new — classical and romanesque churches coexist with modern department stores, brightly lit commercial signs hang over antiquated doorways, and brand new Alfa Romeo automobiles speed over medieval coblestone roads! Perhaps not as shocking to other Europeans, these sights are not the “everyday” to an American visiting Italy for the first time, and their first-hand observation generates a feeling of genuine admiration for the Italian way of life — for their architecture, their history, and their people.

Overall, Bologna presented a fantastic opportunity to experience a foreign nation through one of its most interesting cities. I would like to thank all who made this year’s exchange possible, including the Garden City Community Fund, our chaperone, Mrs Shultz, the Garden City Exchange Program, and especially my parents. The Exchange Program certainly provides a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I am thankful to have been a part of the program this year. Sincerely. (Robert)

“Dear Garden City,

hello from one of your ambassadors to Italy. Just two weeks ago I woke up as a guest in the apartment of an Italian family totally unknown to me. Within a few days, however, I felt like a part of this family and had grown to love the city in which they live. Bologna is a wonderful city that olds a very special charm because of its age and beauty. My first impressions — of disbelief and awe — have changed into feelings of familiariry and admiration. Our Italian families and the group have made it possible for us to see many towns here though, due to communication problems, we’re not alwyas sure where we’re heading next. The most amazing of these towns to me was Venice. It was almost unreal. In one week we will be leaving our homes to tour Florence and Rome. I’m going to miss my Italian friends so I’m very happy that they’ll be in the United States soon. I’m looking forward to the chance to show them life in America. I really want to thank all of you who have made this experience possible. Sincerely.” (Pam)

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