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President's Blog: Take Time this New Year
Posted 01/04/2018 09:25AM

President's Blog: Take Time this New Year

Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.

--Will Rogers

Thank you. As we begin 2018, a year filled with hope and promise, I’d like to offer thanks and gratitude to our amazing community. We are so blessed to have an abundance of love and support from our current families and alumni families as well as the many friends of AMHS. On behalf of everyone at AMHS I wish you and your loved ones a very Happy New Year.

We don’t say thank you often enough, nor do we take the time to ask how people are doing and genuinely listen to what they have to say. I was blessed to study abroad in Germany for a semester during my junior year at Santa Clara University, enrolled through the University of Freiburg and the Institute for European Studies. The primary focus of the program was the European Community (now called the European Union) and the proposed European Currency Unit (then called the ECU now called the EURO). In addition to history and economics courses, we were enrolled in German language courses. I was in the beginning class which meant we learned basic vocabulary, conversational skills, and grammar. My four years of high school Latin did little to prepare me for the course, and I found myself struggling not only in the classroom but in my interactions with the wonderful people in the city of Freiburg. Try as I might, I could only offer simple phrases or understand certain words in a conversation.

I did learn a few tips from some of the more fluent members of my program. They taught us “slang” words such as using the word “schon” to express something as awesome or cool. This confused me because “schon” was a component of the common phrase for thank you (danke schon). I was often confused as to the appropriate word or phrase for “thank you” as I heard many different versions used by the German students we interacted with or at places such as grocery stores. The guide books I read prior to my arrival told you the basic phrases, but I learned the following:

--While I thought you always needed to say “danke schon” (thank you very much), you could just say “danke” (thanks). You could also say “vielen dank” (which also means thank you very much) or “danke sehr” (thanks a lot or thank you very much). To say “you are welcome” use the phrase “gern geschehen” or just say gerne.

You can imagine my confusion. I was so nervous the first few times we went grocery shopping until I started to mimic the customers in front of me. As I learned numbers I was able to understand the cost of my bill, how to say thank you, and how to wish people a good morning, afternoon, or evening (“Guten Morgen, Guten Tag, and Guten Abend”—although you could just say “Morgen, Tag, or Abend”). For three months these words and phrases became part of my daily routine along with other exchanges such as “how are you doing” (“wie geht’s”), hello (“hallo”) and goodbye (“auf Wiedersehen”).

As I traveled from Germany to neighboring countries I learned common expressions in each language. I had a great group of students in my program and we helped each other along the way. It was an amazing experience. When I returned home, during Christmas break, I remember how surreal it seemed to be able to fully understand everyone around me! I also realized a change in my behavior—I was using far more formal exchanges than I had prior to my semester abroad. One of my friends commented on this as we left a store following Christmas shopping. It was evident my exposure to the outgoing and social culture of Europe rubbed off on me.

My experience in Germany exposed me to a culture which embraced the notion of taking quality time to enjoy the company of others, to rest at midday, and to prefer walking or public transportation to spending countless hours behind the wheel of a car. Twenty-five years later I’m amazed at how fleeting time passes by when you don’t take the time to pause and slow down. Several years ago my wife and I visited the Va Piano winery in Walla Walla owned and operated by a Gonzaga University alum. The wine labels feature artwork from a beloved Gonzaga-in-Florence art teacher, Fr. Bruno Segatta, and his work is also sold and displayed in the winery. One of the featured wines in their collection is named in honor of Fr. Bruno--Bruno’s Blend. The winery takes its name from an Italian expression: “chi va piano va sano e va lontano.” This translates to: Those who go slowly go far. Va piano loosely translates to “go slowly.”

May you and your loved ones enjoy a blessed 2018. May you go slowly, take time to enjoy each moment, and on behalf of everyone at AMHS I offer our thanks and appreciation for all you give to our school.

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