I have been mentally writing this post for close to a week now and am so excited to share it with you. In English, autour du monde means around the world. Prior to this week, these three words brought my most favorite French store, Bensimon, to mind. In case you are going to France any time soon, you must find time to pop in this boutique (www.autourdumonde.com). It epitomizes relaxed, international-cool items for wearing and adorning (both yourself and your home). I have yet to find a store that holds more appeal for both American and European aesthetics. But I digress.
Henceforth, autour du monde will always make me think of my little corner of C.T. in rural Maryland. Let me tell you why.
Thailand. Brazil. Azerbaijan. Russia. Venezuela. China. South Korea. These are just a handful among many (and I am not exaggerating) of the nationalities represented at my school. I have to admit I am obsessed enough with meeting different kinds of people that I actually put “cultural awareness” under interests on my facebook profile. Dorky? Some would say. But also completely sincere. There is nothing I love more than asking questions and learning about cultures, backgrounds, jewelry, socks, you name it, that are different from my own.
So putting me where I currently find myself is comparable to putting an ant in a sugar bowl. Who do I talk to next? What question do I ask? What new thing will I learn? With what interesting custom will I become acquainted? It’s amazing. The most inspiring thing for me thus far (and yes, the veteran teachers have affirmed this for me ), is that the kids actually respect their plethora of differences. Whether they are from the West Coast, the East Coast, Spain or Korea…
They don’t spend time making fun of what they might not understand. Like eating dried out sea weed. Or preferring techno music to indie rock. Or playing badminton as a competitive sport. (No offense if there are any serious badminton players reading…I just hadn’t met any until tonight.)
It’s not that I think the kids here are perfect. Far from it. I think the key to this authentic, cross-cultural awareness vacuum is that different is actually the norm. We so often operate exclusively in our bubbles…whether that happens to be Richmond, VA (where I personally am from), the 16th arrondissement of Paris or the skyscrapers of Southeast Asia.
I respect these kids a lot for what they are doing. I didn’t spend a considerable amount of time outside my comfort zone until I was twenty. And even then I thought it was terrifying. These kids are 14, 15, 16 years old and trying something completely foreign and far from home. I admire our international students for taking such a huge risk, and am extremely proud of our American students for accepting them so easily.
So yes. I put cultural awareness down as an interest on my facebook profile. Some might call that nerdy, but I can tell you firsthand it’s amazing. And after just a few short days watching kids of extremely diverse social, economic and geographic backgrounds interact as if it were as normal as tying their shoes, I can tell you it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in months.