One of my top five favorite things in the world (behind my family, food and laughter) is the Olympics. It isn’t that I really love sports, to be honest I don’t understand most of them. I love the power of the Olympics. For 17 days, the world turns its head away from all the awful wars, indecencies, and power struggles. It’s a beautiful time to be patriotic for your own country but in a way that practices fairness and respect. Could you imagine the impact if we treated every interaction as if we were a part of the games?
If I have said it once, I have said it a million times. People are people all over the world. Most times I am using that to refer to your ability to find kind, helpful people anywhere. But it also applies to creating friends.
I feel like I am at food summer camp in Bra. Something about this entire experience doesn’t quite feel like reality. I am surrounded by a group comprised of the most incredible humans on the planet. I am not saying that because I know that some of them read this. Honestly, the people in this program are incredibly intelligent, compassionate, serving, helpful, hilarious, and a million other adjectives. I am in awe of them on a daily basis.
As we all start to fall into our groups of “best” friends, it is beautiful to see those groups become a permeable membrane throughout the one class. It’s been one month but we already have the friends we tease like siblings. There are nicknames, inside jokes, and fond memories. There are friends with whom we have let down walls to let them see our raw selves. In this short time, it is not far fetched to say I have already made friends that will be with me for the rest of my life.
Friendship is such a gift.
In the US, my dearest friends are people very much like me. Quite often they were raised in a similar way, same type of environment, same morals. I think we find comfort in people that are similar to ourselves because it means we won’t have to explain the very backbone that makes us who we are. Of course, there are plenty of friendships that are created for just the opposite, as well. We fall in with friends that are very different from us. Sometimes we do so in order to not put attention on our backgrounds, or to surround ourselves with the type of people we wish to become.
When I first met each person in my class I asked them the same three questions. What’s your story, what is the dream of all dreams, and what is your favorite food. I do not over exaggerate when I say this is the most incredible mixture of human beings. Over the next few months, every Sunday (beginning next Sunday) will be a new installation of my new series on the blog called, “Meet the Gastronomes”. I asked my classmates and other schoolmates to share their stories, who they are, why they love food, and how they got here. Many are not native English speakers, but rather than editing their stories, I chose to leave them as is. How you read their words is how they speak and I want you to hear their stories in the truest form.
There is a beauty in finding international friends because they allow for a particular mix of the two situations. No matter how close your roads run, there is always the median of culture between them. That median is the beautiful gift of diversity. Diversity, of course, is more than simply a difference in passport. In my humble opinion, it is the greatest educator there is. It looks at the exact same situation through a different lense, and therefore, a different perspective.
Next week you meet the first gastronome, Jappy, the best introduction.
Until then, stay hungry my friends.
-The Very Hungry Traveler