The experience itself was actually really incredible, and looking back at it now, I find myself questioning whether or not it really happened, or if I was just making it up. But the way I felt is really my favorite memory. Because I’ve always wanted to feel like something bigger; I’ve always wanted to feel timeless, infinite.
We were running late, and then her dad couldn’t figure out the directions. It was funny because Italians drive super fast, but we had nowhere to arrive to. It was like running a race with no finish line. We finally stopped in front of a huge black gate. Giulia called her friend, and one of the adults came to welcome us to a wide green yard, and all around were my friends, and people that I soon would call my friends. Most of the guys and some girls were playing soccer, or as they call it in Italy, “football”.
I carefully ran through the game, dodging the ball as I went, to greet the people that became my little community. It was true that just a month ago, I had no idea who any of these people were, but after having traveled literally to the other side of the world, without anyone but these 40 amazing teenagers from my hometown, I’d grown attached to them. President Eisenhower was really onto something when he created People to People, an organization that takes students and teachers from all over the United States to hundreds of countries all over the globe.
It was my home-stay, and I was living with a local Italian family. Giulia was my age, and the only one who could speak sufficient English, though her parents were lovely and tried hard to make me feel as comfortable as possible. A lot of people from Giulia’s school were chosen to host us, so they decided to have a barbecue-type party at Jacopo’s house on the last night.
What I thought was the coolest thing was when we went to get food. I had never met any of the Italian people, but practically all of them knew I couldn’t eat pork. It was just a really nice feeling because none of them had ever even been aware of my existence and yet here they were, trying to make me feel as part of their small community as possible.
We sat down; watching the soccer game, eating this amazing rice with what looked like hot dog chunks, playing with Jacopo’s two adorable cats, watching the sun fade into a magnificent pink, and then into an exquisite deep blue. As the afternoon wore away, everyone started to crowd the porch, and I took my buddy, Kaylyn, into my lap to make room for everyone. We began to talk in our cliques, but still in a bigger group, and it felt homey. Then Jacopo began playing on his guitar. Giulia told me that he, and a couple others, Omar and Chiara, were in a band together. And you could see it, too; Chiara was a singer. She poured out her soul and made your heart sing along. You could see it in her face, but more importantly, you could feel it, in your soul, running through your veins.
The best part of the night, arguably of the entire trip, was when we sang “Demons”. Little known fact, the song “Demons” by Imagine Dragons is really popular in Italy, but I think it fit the mood of the party: a bunch of teenagers who don’t know what they’re doing with their lives and they’ve done some bad things, but they’re good people and just want to find a spot in the world, in someone’s heart, in their own heart. So when Chiara, Omar, and Jacopo began playing “Demons”, we all joined along, bursting with emotion, with this sense that we aren’t alone. It was really intimate for Kaylyn and me. I had my arms wrapped around her waist to keep her from slipping off my lap, and my head leaning on her shoulder, and I was pouring every feeling I’d ever felt right into her ear. And not only us, but all 60 of us, huddled on a porch, trying to grasp a connection that would last forever. That really brought us together: the fact that we were so different, in language, appearance, tradition, culture, but our fate as teenagers made us friends.