Thursday, February 20, 2014

Manca una settimana! (one week to go!)

With one week to departure, I am reminded of other meaningful and challenging moments I have experienced when living/traveling abroad. …

When I was in my second year at New College of Florida, I did a semester-long, service learning program in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Just a day or two after arrival, I went shopping for supplies with my Ecuadorian host family and a new, gringa friend participating in the same program. My new friend, who didn't speak a word of Spanish and had not previously traveled overseas, broke down crying somewhere in the middle of the shampoo aisle.

My host brother, who was about 10 years old, looked at her like she was crazy, and then looked at me for an explanation. All I could say was, "Sometimes it's hard to live in another country". To my friend's credit, she stayed the term and immersed herself in the language and culture. She left speaking Spanish fluently and had a wonderful time. Thanks to social media, we are still in touch.

Sometimes it is hard living in another culture. It's exhausting trying to communicate all day in a language that is not rolling smoothly off your tongue, never knowing exactly where you are going, wondering how reliable the answers to your imperfectly formed questions may be.

At the same time, the constant ambiguity makes you more patient, and more open to adventure… if you don't understand the directions, you get lost. When you get lost, you discover new places. If you are open to the unexpected, you may be pleasantly surprised. I am so looking forward to these ambiguous moments in Italy. Challenging as they may be, I will embrace them, grateful for the adventure. As we say in español, "Caminante no hay camino; se hace camino al andar". I wonder how to express that in Italian…

       Lost in Belgrade, Serbia, Aug. 2012. 

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