One image the Reavey-Harris family will not forget is chasing the C-3; this was the bus (autobus in Italian) that Liam, 10, needed to catch for his twice-weekly soccer practice. Maeve caught the 33 or 32 to her practice. Their dad, Tom, would joke that running after the buses was the most exercise he got while living with his wife and children in Florence, Italy, last spring.
From the end of March to the middle of June, Kate Reavey had a position through the WA Community College Consortium for Study Abroad (WCCCSA), and the whole family would live in this Renaissance city, each one finding his/her way through the language, culture, literature, history, and everyday experiences of Florence in springtime.
Before they left, none of the Reavey-Harrises realized just how much walking they would do or running to catch the bus. Tom always has admired the European train systems and the family knew they would use trains to make their way around Italy. However, Kate reports that she had no idea that she would not drive a car for three whole months! “It just never crossed my mind.” But she claims that living in Sequim, driving is an everyday occurrence for her, and she embraced this chance to walk and ride.
The children, too, loved the opportunity to figure out the public transportation system with their dad; they mapped the routes and found the fields. Or sometimes didn’t! Tom recalls one game when he and Liam just could not find their way to the field.
In addition to reading maps and learning their way around Florence by strolling the streets, the family strengthened their Italian by purchasing most of their food at the Mercato Santâ Ambrogio, where they soon found their favorite merchants.
In the classroom, Reavey taught creative writing and literature, and as she tells it, tried to keep a few steps ahead of the students. She returned to Dante and Boccaccio but also discovered a deep affinity for the post World War II writer Natalia Ginzburg, and through the field trips and local tours of museums (all guided by experts in the field of art history) became as much a student as she was a professoressa.
The children, after spending about an hour on math homework, would travel to museums or churches or fountains or the Boboli Gardens, with their journals and sketch books and sometimes even their watercolor paints. Led by their dad, each one would learn by experience. Liam asked for a guitar and spent many hours learning chords on his new acquisition, purchased in a second-hand store around the corner from the apartment on Via di Mezzo.
The family’s daily life was punctuated by visits from friends and relatives. Some of the visitors even enrolled in the WCCCSA-sponsored cooking classes, including Dave Shreffler (coordinator of this Traveler’s Journal series) and his family.
It is impossible for the family to describe just one aspect of Italy they most remember; however, the visits from friends and family rank pretty high. Maeve posted photographs, essays and even some poetry to her blog, which was one way for her to communicate with her teachers and fellow students at Sequim Middle School; Liam, too, posted on more than one occasion and collaborated on a poem, as well.
Kate started a blog and it ended up being a bit like a runaway train, given the fact that she posted more than 200 pages of writing! Tom will tell you he simply learned better how to slow down, but the truth be told, he was the one chasing that old C-3 bus! Come out on March 10 and meet the family, hear about Florence, and enjoy a journey back to this Renaissance city.
Kate Reavey was the WCCCSA instructor in Florence, Italy, during spring quarter 2010 and her family joined her for the experience. Reavey has been an instructor at Peninsula College since 1993 and her husband, Tom Harris, teaches at Five Acre School.
Their children Maeve, an eighth-grader at Sequim Middle School, and Liam, a fifth-grader at Five Acre, are avid soccer players and musicians and now include travel as one of their favorite pastimes. The family loved shopping for food at the local markets and cooking meals in their small apartment, catching a few Serie A soccer matches and hosting family and friends who visited them in this Renaissance capital.