Inspiration is something that I’ve always enjoyed. Not only in the cultivation of it but even in the experience of it. It’s the influence of being able to make someone believe they are more than capable of achieving something.
As I’ve been learning throughout these past few weeks here. My Italian is far from adequate and the language barrier has been proving it very difficult to hold full conversations with the locals here. My pronunciation has been criticized as far from an Italian accent, but I get the “SoCal accent down perfectly.”
It humored me as one of the cab drivers asked me if I was cinese or giapponese? My immediate response was, “No, sono americano.” His eyes lit faster than a deer’s in the middle of headlights.
In his broken English, he responded, “Did you vote for Trump?” and I couldn’t help but die from laughter. This gave me insight on how the stereotypes of Americans ran rampant in the minds of the locals.
Just as the European stereotypes ran through my mind prior to this trip.
As I engaged in the most rudimentary pleasantries with locals I ran into, I realized I wanted to talk to someone that had a broader perspective of Italy. I needed someone with some contrasting views.
I was looking for someone…
- That had been in Italy and at least one other country
- With an enthusiastic, contagious drive, that was most importantly—inspirational
- That spoke some English! I mean I need to learn their wisdom in order to pass it on, right?
It came to me when my roommate, Skylar, had just finished reading my first post and came into my room. I’m pretty sure he was joking when he uttered, “I’m hurt you didn’t interview me dude.” My immediate response was that I’m trying to capture different perspectives on the world.
“Exactly,” he replied.
And everything from there just made sense. In the few months that I’ve known Skylar, he’s shown an admirable sense of discipline when it came to school and self-control. I was beginning to think he was a robot (which he probably is). He was born in Taiwan and came to the United States when he 15.
Now he’s with me in Italy and was the perfect candidate to dissect. For someone I’ve already grown to care for like a little brother, he dropped an immense amount of knowledge on me.
I asked him how his experience living in the United States, Taiwan, and now, Italy, has helped influence his outlook on the world.
“The way Italians live their lives… it opens my minds to new things. It’s very mellow here. There’s a very high sense of pride here. We also have a sense of pride, but it’s not like them. Even if they aren’t doing as well, they still have a higher sense of pride. Their self-confidence, is something I never had growing up. Their confidence in being who they are.”
Skylar said the environment he grew up in, in Taiwan, was very much different. It wasn’t that it made him feel insecure about his country’s pride, but it had a completely different atmosphere to it.
“It’s practical. Not so much as making us not have confidence. But, it’s more like how do you even have the time to worry about that when you have so much to get done? There’s a lot of expectations, but not a lot of talks on national pride. Are you Taiwanese? Are you Chinese? There’s a conflict of who you are in Taiwan. It gave me the habit of constant pressure. It made me more versatile.”
It all made sense now. This was his bread and butter. This was what attributed to his innate drive that I saw in his work ethic. When he had to finish something, he HAD to finish it. It was a sense of urgency that never stopped being urgent.
It was fascinating.
However, he did confuse me with his strong feelings of admiration for America and his wish to not spend the rest of his life living there.
“It’s not that I want to leave America… I always want to have a place in America… I feel like because America is such a melting pot… now it becomes its own thing that I can taste a little bit of this and a little bit of that. But, it’s never the same where it was before. It used to be there’s the Irish, the Italians, the Germans, and the Asians, and you can see the distinction. Now when I say I want to move away, I just want to experience the distinctions of each culture. There’s the American way of experiencing a culture, and the real way.”
Experiencing a culture has definitely been enlightening. This was my first time out of the states and I couldn’t believe the cultural differences we had. I have never felt so grateful to own a car.
When he mentioned experiencing a culture, I couldn’t help but think of the ancient Roman city that looms throughout Italy. Its art and architecture definitely brings in tourists from around the world.
Skylar had a different opinion on the cliché monuments that feel like they’re on every corner here.
“Being born in Taiwan, there’s so many things that the Chinese have built over centuries, and they’re all gone. Rome having all these buildings, like they can’t build subways since they keep finding things from ancient times. China doesn’t have that! Well, they might, but they just break it down. There’s the history of the Roman Forum, but how can that help the people of this city improve their standard of living?”
This idea was so novel to me. Maybe it was my inner tourist that loved the aesthetic features of any old Roman wonder I got to explore. But, to him they are just sights of the past.
He is a forward thinker.
“They are relevant, but they aren’t the focus of our time. When I say, I want to travel I want to experience being part of their culture. For me, I rather sit down and talk to Vittoria (our homestay host) for three hours than to go to the colosseum for three hours. The colosseum is dead.”
The colosseum is dead.
You heard it here first, folks. There’s no point in marveling at something that does nothing to enrich your life around you. Build relationships with the ones you can and you’ll remember them for a lifetime.
“60 Years later you’re about to die—of diabetes—and you think about Rome? No, you don’t think about Rome. But, what you can think about is, ‘Oh! I met an old lady in Piazza Bologna. Her name is Vittoria, she’s a painter, she lived in Rome for 65 years, she told me all these stories, we lived together, and this is the experience I had with her.’ You won’t say that about the colosseum.”
An individual far beyond his age, he has used the insights of practicality and a multi-ethnic background to see that becoming fascinated with the people of a culture is drastically more significant than the glorified remnants of their past.