Last year, Susan Syracuse of Tucson, Arizona signed up with GeoVisions to teach abroad in Italy. For two months, she would be living with and teaching a family English.
"I don't know any 72-year-olds who would do something crazy like that," said many of Susan’s friends and family. But she was ready for the adventure. Susan tended to be an introvert, more on the shy side, and says she knew this trip would break her out of her shell.
Susan’s host family, from Porto San Giorgo consisted of the dad, (Massimo), mom, (Vicky), and two young children Ricky and Sara.
Teaching people English, while also having to critique and correct them can have its challenges, as Susan soon found out.
“If I corrected Vicky, she loved it,” recalls Susan. Yet she says Massimo would become “frustrated,” especially since his wife was able to speak English more fluently than he was.
“Sometimes they would fight about translating English words and would come running to me asking who was correct,” says Susan, who also found herself playing the role of tutor and mediator.
But let’s face it, egos can be bruised when you have the passion to learn something and it’s not coming as easily as you had hoped. So the question for Susan was, “How was I going to engage Massimo?”
The answer was Frank Sinatra. You see, Susan would always hear Massimo singing in the house, especially songs by the legendary singer. (Check out Susan and Massimo singing “My Way” below.) This sparked an idea for her...
“Maybe if I sang with him, a deeper relationship would develop.” And it did, making Susan's teach abroad experience more enriching!
[video width="426" height="240" mp4="https://geovisions.org/wp-content/uploads/frank-polidori.mp4"][/video]
After she began singing with Massimo, Susan says noticed a big change between the two of them.
"He was friendlier, and more playful."
They even developed little inside jokes with each other. Susan recalls…
“He would get up in the morning and yell ‘I’m the boss!’ And then I would leave sticky notes on his things and write ‘You are not the boss!’”
And just like that, it seemed like the trouble the duo faced—they were able to let it go. Oh, and yes- Susan also got Massimo, the boss, the man of the house, to belt out a rendition of Frozen’s “Let It Go.” (Too bad we didn’t also get that on tape!)
“He was dancing around and singing!” she laughs.
Initially Susan was unsure of how she was going to be able to interact with Massimo, but they ended things on a great note.
During the last few days of her teach abroad trip, Massimo bought Susan a plant with a note that said “You are a part of our family now.”
Susan and the family continue to keep in contact.
“We Skype and Massimo always points to the table where I sat and says, ‘That’s your place.’”
About Susan: She’s an avid hiker. Two years ago she hiked 500 miles across the Camino de Santiago in Spain. She also loves popcorn and got her host family addicted to it, leaving them an air popper for a Christmas gift!