I love school. Aside from that last semester of senior year of high school, I always have. It's not about the classroom or the grades its about the dynamics of learning. Few things get me more excited than: something new learned in school, seen in life, and then a situation approached differently because of the new found knowledge. Learning a language is particularly rewarding in this sense. I am so pleased to be able to comprehend more and more Italian every day. Soon, I will be able to speak more than just the simple phrases I have down now.
Each day, I walk about 2 miles from my apartment to school. Which is a great way to force me to walk off some of the gelato and pizza I am having once in a while. Here are some scenes from my walk to and from school.
Something I have found surprisingly difficult is learning a new city and culture without hearing someone say, "me too". Someone navigating their own cultural upheaval and adjustments along side me. Never underestimate the power of "me too". I was not lacking support, help or friendship as Christopher, his sisters and parents have been all of those things and more. I was however, missing a "me too" friend.
When exploring a new place it really pays to have another person who is equally ignorant. There is freedom in looking and sounding stupid... together. There is a bond formed over not having a clue what you are doing... together. Every experience no matter how embarrassing or challenging brings you closer.
Experiences like having no idea where to put the ticket for public transportation while everyone is staring at you, or unknowingly walking into a store that is closed and then not understanding why everyone is yelling at you. Or when you are trying to say in Italian that you ate breakfast, but instead you say something completely wrong about eating parts of the male anatomy. Completely funny bonding moments when you are with a friend... a little bit more disheartening and depressing when you are alone. At least for an extrovert like myself.
Feeling rather desperate for some "me too" friends, I decided it was time I tried to spend more time with the people I am meeting in school. My school is incredibly diverse and in the last three weeks I have been in class with people from: China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Norway, Germany, Russia, Austria, Switzerland, Australia, Spain, Columbia, Brazil, Venezuela and the US. Ranging in age from 16-70. There are about 15 of us in the class. Of course it is all in Italian because there are so many other languages represented that the teacher would have to know like 20 languages to be able to explain something.
When it comes to cross cultural friendship, I thinks its quite important not to come on too strong, or seem desperate. As a general rule, people don't want to be friends with someone that no one else wants to be friends with no matter where you are from in the world. I decided to pull some kind of weird friendship dating thing, similar to what one might do when they are hinting for someone to ask me... I mean them out.
ME: "Oh man, I could really go for some pizza right about now, do you know of anywhere?"
CLASSMATE: "I heard about a great place from a friend not too far form here"
ME: "Hmm, well, I am kind of hungry. Maybe I will go check it out."
CLASSMATE: "Well, maybe we can go together, do you want to?"
ME: (acting kind of surprised) "Oh, sure that would be fun, let's go!" (Invited other person in the class)
What I realized is that everyone wants a "me too" person. We are all there trying to navigate this city, language and feelings of homesickness together. We may be from different parts of the world, but we really just want someone to go through the tough embarrassing moments with and to be able to hear, "me too".
My class has really bonded together, thanks in large part to the inviting and warm climate culture of South America.
So, there you have it. Some glimpses of school and new found friends from around the world. I hope that today, you find yourself in the presence of a "me too" friends, or that you can be one to someone else.