Il Mio Destino… Bergamo
By Rayanne Menery, Instructor of Italian
Professor Rayanne Menery has taught Italian at Gloucester High School for the last eighteen years and has been part-time instructor of Italian at Salem State for the last ten.
When I was a college student, I changed my major several times and still was not sure what I wanted to do upon graduation. I was fortunate enough to have studied languages and knew that I would always do something with my language skills. My father, also a polyglot, wanted me to travel abroad when I finished my studies to develop more fully my Italian. He learned about a couple, Francesca and Bruno, who ended up changing my life forever.
I went to a small medieval town, Bergamo, Italy about forty minutes from Milan a few weeks after my graduation. It was there I would develop my Italian, help Francesca with her English, and deepen my love for the Italian culture. I spent the next few years with this Italian couple, who treated me as if I were their own flesh and blood. I slowly got over my sense of shyness and ventured out as much as possible in this small town. Francesca would give me shopping lists and I would speak with the locals. I was the only American in town so everyone tried to speak to me in “American.” After several months, my forty year-old father, who was the original driving force behind my Italian experience, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It was the longest flight home in my life. I stayed with my father for the year and produced a smile when I would speak Italian to him in his hospital room.
After my father passed away, I was able to return to Italy to stay with relatives in Rome. Francesca and Bruno, came to visit me and asked me to return to Bergamo, the quaint town in which I was the only American. People would walk up to me and say “I know English, my cat is blue.” Francesca put an advertisement in the paper for me to start tutoring in English as I had decided it was my destiny to stay in Bergamo, and Francesca decided I was going to utilize my teaching skills. I had a job at a local school in a week. I was teaching aged 2-80, including kindergartners and high-school students. I knew my father would be so happy that I was teaching and I was happy to be in this town with two of the nicest people one could ever meet.
I enjoyed walking around the streets of Bergamo with the cobblestones and small store fronts and hearing the “Bergamasco” dialect, smelling the aromas of the polenta cooking as the little old ladies would hang out the tablecloth, and soak it all in. Bergamo is divided by the Alps into two sections, Città Alta (the high city,) and Città Bassa (the low city). It is a town off the beaten track, and one worth a visit. It is a quick train ride from the Milan train station, with trains leaving every 30 minutes.
I stayed in Bergamo for another three years teaching, and eventually opening up the American School with Francesca. If I did not meet this couple, or my father did not influence me to go, I would not have become a teacher. I returned to America as I decided my new destino would be to teach Italian in America. I got a job the first week after I returned home, went back to school to become a certified teacher, and have been happily teaching at Gloucester High School for eighteen years, and at Salem State University for the last ten. I am still close to Francesa and Bruno, and feel they are my Italian surrogate parents now. I am so lucky to have found my Destino. Bergamo will always be a place near and dear to me. Find your own Bergamo, find your own “destino.” Study languages as you never know where they will take you.