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Reflections on My Five Weeks in Europe, Part 1: Gratitude

Germany

For five weeks in the fall of 2019—from September 2 to October 9—I traveled from Japan to Europe to meet bilingual and multilingual families in person and interview the parents for a new book I’m writing that brings together a range of “success stories” on the subject of raising bilingual and multilingual children. Along with the 15 interviews I conducted in England, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Spain, and Italy, I’m now pursuing additional interviews with parents in other parts of the world via Skype. This series of posts shares some reflections from my recent travels. To follow my book project in greater depth—including the posts I wrote detailing my experience of each destination on my European tour—please consider joining me at my Patreon page and lending support to my work. (You’ll get some special rewards at the same time!)

One of my very favorite quotes, from Meister Eckhart, is this:

If the only prayer you say in your entire life is ‘Thank You,’ that would suffice.

As I sit here at my kitchen table, in my small house in Hiroshima, Japan, I struggle to begin writing about my five weeks in Europe. It was such a big experience for me, in so many ways, that sharing it in some orderly fashion feels overwhelming.

So, rather than one long post, let me write a series of shorter reflections.

And let me start my reflections by stressing those two simple words…

Thank you.

Above all, I’m deeply thankful for having had this opportunity to visit a variety of marvelous places, to spend time with a number of lovely families (and play with the adorable kids), and to hear the parents’ heartfelt stories about raising bilingual and multilingual children.

Honestly, it all felt like a dream while it was happening—and now, back in Japan, in a familiar old routine, it feels even more like a dream.

Did I actually meet all these people that I had become friends with through my work online over the past seven years?

Did I really stay with 10 different families, families that welcomed me into their homes as I traveled from place to place?

Did I truly see all those incredible sights in all those splendid places, from major cities to small towns in the countryside? (Prior to this trip, I had only spent time in the Czech Republic so almost all my destinations were new to me.)

I scroll through the hundreds of photos on my phone and see that, yes, it’s true. I was there. For 38 days I was out in the world, savoring the excitement of fresh adventures and the joy of precious encounters with other bilingual and multilingual families.

I’ll share more pictures in subsequent posts, but here’s a sampling of memories from the whole journey, from London to Rome. (And please note: I’m only sharing certain photos of families because some families prefer that I not post images of them online, a request I will respect.)

England (London, Leicester, Newark)

England

England

England

My very first homestay was with Alex Nicoletti and her family in Leicester. Alex is the creative force behind Lil’ollo, which makes beautiful, useful products for bilingual and multilingual families.

England

England

In Newark, I stayed with Izabela Olendzki and her family. They run a bookstore that distributes educational materials in Polish throughout the UK and Europe. The big news is that they’re now also working on a Polish translation of my book Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability!

England

They also kindly organized a talk that I gave in Newark.

France (Villers-Cotterets, Paris)

France

France

France

France

France

France

The Netherlands (Amsterdam)

The Netherlands

The Netherlands

The Netherlands

Germany (Aachen)

Germany

Germany

Germany

Denmark (Copenhagen)

Denmark

Denmark

Denmark

There’s a bakery in Copenhagen that was begun by the children of a Japanese man from Hiroshima who opened a successful bakery business in Hiroshima after he learned to bake bread in Copenhagen! In other words, this bakery in Copenhagen is actually the spin-off of a bakery in Hiroshima, but was originally inspired by Copenhagen! (It’s called “Andersen” after the famous fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen.)

Poland (Krakow, Zagnansk, Auschwitz)

Poland

Poland

Poland

Poland

The Czech Republic (Prague)

The Czech Republic

The Czech Republic

The Czech Republic

Spain (Madrid)

Spain

Spain

Spain

Italy (Rome)

Italy

Italy

Italy

Italy

To everyone who helped make this dream a reality, in ways large and small, I thank you. It was an experience that will always be one of the highlights of my life.

(And remember, it isn’t too late to join me. Your support at Patreon will continue to be welcomed and valued.)

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8 Responses

  1. Great post! The post makes me smile! The Hiroshima bread roll has Japanese sake in the recipe. It was so lovely to see you in person. You made an impression on my kids, they still ask where you are and if you are coming back. 🙂

    1. Undraa, I wish Hiroshima and Copenhagen weren’t so far apart! You have such a sweet family and your boys (I’m including your husband!) were so much fun to play with. Please tell them all that I say hello!

    1. Alisa, I had such a nice time with you and your family in your lovely village. I quickly came to understood your attachment to that area—it’s so peaceful and beautiful. Again, thank you for your warm hospitality…including your husband’s delicious cinnamon rolls! Cheers to you all!

  2. I was also very happy to have the chance to meet you in person. My whole family enjoyed very much having you stay with us. Looking forward to reading the book!

    1. Marta, I had a wonderful stay in Germany with you and your family! And as a bonus, I got to cross the border into The Netherlands and Belgium, too (at least with my hand and foot)! Many thanks to you all for welcoming me so warmly into your home!

    1. Izabela, yes, I had such a lovely time with your family! I just wish it could have lasted longer! I’m really happy, though, that we can continue our close connection through the Polish translation of my book, and I hope we’ll have the chance to meet again one day soon in the UK!

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Welcome to Bilingual Monkeys!

I’m Adam Beck, the founder of this blog and The Bilingual Zoo, a lively worldwide forum for parents raising bilingual or multilingual kids. I’m also the author of the widely-read book Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability. I’ve been an educator and writer in this field for over 20 years as well as the parent of two bilingual children, now 16 and 13. I hope my work can help empower the success of your bilingual journey.

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