I really liked this lunch trip in particular because I got to share what I knew about the Italian and European culture from a World History class I took with the girls, and gave them some insight on what they should expect from the people while we were there. I love learning about other countries and their ways of life. Culture is fascinating to me, as well as language, as each is so vibrant and full of history. I think that learning a new language or visiting a new country gives one a new, broadened, perspective on life that they can’t get from the confines of their own homes, and I am so thankful that IJM gave me and the girls an opportunity to do just that. We got to try first-hand how cooking styles in Italy differ from those in the States, and we even tried Italian soda! You wouldn’t think their Sprite or Coca-Cola would taste differently from the ones sold back home, but if you ask Khloe, “that was definitely not Sprite”. I personally loved the taste of the italian-version soda.
Towards the end of lunch, I went to a nearby shop where the owner knew English and I asked him if he could pretty please call four taxis for our huge group because I didn’t know nearly enough Italian to call the taxi company on my own. Without hesitation, he said, “Yes! Of course!” with the biggest, warmest smile. Our first two encounters with Italian people were both so pleasant because of how kind, understanding, and helpful they were. One of the reasons why we all loved Italy so much was because of the people. They had no reason to help us and could have easily said “We don’t speak English” and waved us away. Instead, every time we needed help, they would go out of their way to find someone who could help us, or explain things in the easiest way possible so we could find where we were going. It was heartwarming to see that even if we didn’t speak the same language, our humanity made us similar and was put before the fact that we were foreigners in their land.
After everyone finished eating and paying their bills, we grabbed the four taxis, and made our way to the Duomo di Milano, or, the famous Milan Cathedral. This was another nerdy moment for me because I learned about the Cathedral in my history class a few years before, and seeing the it in person was jaw-dropping. The outside of the Cathedral was some of the most exquisite architecture I have ever seen, and the inside was even more stunning. The stained glass on the inside was so beautiful and intricate that I couldn’t stop staring. It was like in the movies where you walk into a big, gorgeous building and you are walking around with your mouth agape from how astounded you are. That’s how I felt. In order to pay respects to the church, we weren’t allowed to take pictures on the inside, but it allowed us to really live in the moment and take all of the details in. There were statues lining the walls, depicting different aspects of life and religious stories. Since I’m Roman Catholic, I lit a candle in honor of my family, and prayed at a pew for a while, thanking God for blessing me with the most amazing opportunities in life, especially being the International Teen and being able to travel the world. Visiting the Cathedral was a humbling reminder of how in contrast to the bustle of tourism outside, inside the walls there was this timeless feeling of existence and appreciation for life. I was inspired, to say the least.