Thank God it's Friday

5th November 2004 at 00:00
Monday I teach English at a school for maritime studies in Venice. Next time you are here, spare a thought for the person at the helm of the water bus. He (or she - we have girls, too) was probably at the school. So, to improve their English, we've come to Southampton for a week. We're spending the mornings at a language school and the afternoons visiting the nautical sights. I was worried about their first night with their host families, but they are all happy.

Tuesday Yesterday, during the "get to know Southampton" walk, some of the kids developed blisters. The worst is Francesco. Luckily, his landlady is a nurse and she has wrapped his feet in bandages.

Wednesday After school, there is swimming and bowling. At the pool, Francesco sits on a bench and watches. Rebecca, the only girl, watches a handsome would-be Olympic diver and dreams. Others are in the Jacuzzi. I slip into the Turkish bath to have half an hour of peace.

Thursday The excursion to the Portsmouth historical docks is a success. On the way back, Matteo tells us what happened to him last night. After bowling he got on the right bus, but in the wrong direction. He got off, climbed over a fence and walked across a field. Disorientated, he saw a group of youngsters, went up to them and said, "I'm missing!" My heart races; suppose they were violent? They weren't. They took Matteo home.

We're happy.

Friday Last day. Tonight there's a barbecue and the teachers will give out certificates. Everybody says the kids work hard, have learned a lot and are lovely, but noisy. I feel proud. As I pass on the compliments, the fire alarm goes off, smashed by a student. The teachers threaten to cancel the barbecue. I have to find the culprit. But no one talks. In Italy, this collective silence is known as omert.... The barbecue goes ahead and the kids behave like angels. Tomorrow's trip to London will end a full and unforgettable week. But we never will find out who set off the alarm.

Annavaleria Guazzieri teaches English at the Technical Nautical Institute in Venice

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