Ciao a tutti,
Tonight I’m coming to you as I’m absolutely exhausted, but with an open heart and renewed sense of purpose. It’s so easy to lose sight of your direction, and the inspiration that sent you down a particular path, in the midst of this crazy thing that we call life. I have been extremely guilty of that throughout the past few months, but especially the past few weeks. Personal issues, finding a job, planning a cross-country move, and graduating threw me into a whirlwind, and I didn’t come to Sicily with the clarity of mind that I had hoped to. I didn’t have one second to wind-down before arriving here, and even in the first week here. It’s taken me until now to slow down and try not to panic about what’s next, and some of my experiences in the past few weeks and hours have reminded me of why I am here.
My heart is warmed each time that we run into someone that I’ve met previously. I’m continuously surprised at how many people remember me from last year, even if my encounter with them lasted for only a few minutes. They remember details of my life, encourage me, and make me feel so special. They always say how proud they are of me to have graduated and found a job, as it’s something that is not easily attained here. Each time that I describe my job and what life will be like for me, their eyes are filled with imagination of such opportunities. I’ve had a few people say to me, “I want to come to American to work, learn English, and send money to my family”. This breaks my heart because these people want so much for their families, and would add vibrancy to any community in America with their lightheartedness and grit. Let me repeat again – I never want to hear any American complain about our political situation. Yes, it could be better, but we are immensely better off than so many places. There are people who would die to be in your position. I’m going to write a full blog on this topic soon, but it’s a harsh reminder of the reality for many people on this island. When I’m told such sad statements by somebody here, all I can do is try to teach them a few words of English when I’m around to inspire them to learn more and give them hope.
Today, I witnessed something beautiful. A bit of background as to why this was a beautiful moment for me – wealth and status are things to be boasted about in Ragusa. It’s obvious anywhere you go if you are observant. Typically, those who are rich make sure that it is known in any way possible, and carry an attitude of separation with them. Elena and I went to the Next Primary School that will be opening in the fall. It is the first bilingual/immersion school in Ragusa, and is a big deal for many people here. We looked around the classroom and asked some questions, and then everybody went into a room for a presentation about the school. During this time, the cost of sending a child here would be revealed, and it has been much anticipated. Every parent sat on edge to finally hear the cost of the school, and you could see the desperation in their eyes to give their children a far brighter future than they had. This moment was so beautiful for me because despite the differing “classes” of everybody in this room, despite their physical shows of wealth, they all came together with a common mission of improving the future of Sicily through their children. The people of Italy are finally understanding the price that is paid for not speaking English well (as a nation), and are making the push to change this. The hopeful intentions that each parent had for their children was incredible, and reminded me to be so thankful of my own situation.
I’m extremely lucky to have such a strong relationship with my host family, and that they think and speak so highly of me. Nearly any person that comes within earshot of Elena and I in public will ask us questions about the homestay English experience, and we are able to share a wonderful story together because of our great relationship. Many people say that they want to try this experience, but most never do because they are fearful of the challenge it may be. I often wonder what Sicily would be like if even a fraction more of these people tried this experience, as it has such an impact on each community when an English speaker is around. Ultimately, teaching English abroad is incredible, but should be treated with the weight that it deserves. It’s not simply a vacation, not all days are easy, and there are more challenging moments than exciting ones. However, what you put in, you get back exponentially. I put almost 24/7 work with my host family, but it rewards me infinitely. Last night, despite the challenge that I was about the face, my host family managed to make me laugh so hard that I was sobbing.
I’ve said it many times, and I’ll continue to scream it from the top of my lungs – If you feel called to try this experience, put the work in and do it.