I think that if there is anything that makes any place unforgettable is the people and friends you make along the way.
Siena would have been an abyss without the many beautiful souls that were kind enough to make me a part of their lives. God predestined these unforgettable moments that would show me the importance of interaction, inquisitiveness, emotion, honesty, growth, acceptance and a deeper love and appreciation for humanity. From my first day in Siena, February 19, 2016, I began to feel and see the abundant love which I knew to be present in all and it’s freaking awesome! Though I met many, I want to share with you a few who left such an impression on me that they made me want to become more and do better.
The taxi driver unloaded my luggage and left me to fend for myself near the steps of XXIV Maggio where I would be staying for 3 months. As I was managing to get one bag inside, two young dark-skinned men kindly held the door open for me. After closing the door behind me, I remember vaguely thinking in my Lucian tone “So they eh see a girl there with how many bags to help her, choops”, lol I mean, Lucians, you know us Lucians. They must have heard me because the next thing I knew, they returned, brought my bags inside, became my translators, escorted to my room, took my number and insisted that if I needed anything, let them know.
On that day and days after my arrival, Isaac was with me from morning till night. My first mealin Siena was shared with him. He too me Mensa, the canteen, and offered me lunch. That same day he introduced me to his friends and they cooked an African dish for me. I rolled rice balls in my hands and dipped it in a hot tomato sauce and vowed never to have that sauce again (really because the hotness was too much for me to endure).
At that time, I had no idea how Mensa (the canteen) worked. He used to take me with him & get us both meals using his card because he had a scholarship. Then I discovered that on the card you are allowed 2meals p/day which means he shared one with me. How thoughtful is that? Even more so, there were days he would force me to go with him to eat something because he quickly realized my lazy nature (which I credit to the cold).
Can you guys believe that he just used one on me every time we had lunch or dinner together?! Was he not hungry for the other meals? Or grumble internally when he shared with me?
He took his time every day to show me around the city while I followed him, stupefied by the fact that I was walking on these stoned streets while also wondering if these people were crazy for being out in this cold at this hour!
Isaac took me to the Campo – the most enchanting place in Siena and went with me from shop to shop trying to find the perfect winter coat. I decided on a green coat with gold and black fur around the neck which he didn’t approve lol.
Isaac introduced me to a panino kebab one late evening. It was maybe 9 or 10 pm and I didn’t want to leave the comfort of my room to go prepare something in the kitchen. This short man marched down to my room, had me get dressed and we took a stroll on one of the usual streets and viola, the cheapest and most fulfilling non-Italian dish – un panino kebab. From that day I’ve probably had 12-20 panini kebab, especially on the days when I had no energy to do a thing.
He did those things and so much more. But most of all, Isaac you blessed me with a selfless friendship. I don’t believe that my words will ever allow you to feel how much my heart opened up and made me start seeing people differently. You taught me selflessness, kindness, and generosity and I have endeavored to show that same kindness to new friends/students who I have met and will meet and for that, I am ever grateful.
“An infectious and distinct laughter, that even now I could hear it”
This gorgeous, voluptuous, child-like spirit of a Turkish woman entered my A1 class late into our first or second week in March. What more can I say? It was love at first sight. My favorite thing about Su is how easily “I Love You” rolls off her tongue for her friends, including me. She only spent one month in my Italian class as preparation for her other courses at the other university, but that has never distanced our love and support for each other. She made me feel part of her life & has always accepted me as I am.
Su, thank you for still craving my company even when we are miles away. You are a ball of sunshine & the most beautiful Turkish woman who ever did live! Your love for your friends are pure & leave a lasting impression.
Hey, Soul Sista! We became acquainted through Isaac but our love for God has been the glue. Constance is a spirit of love, light, mercy, almsgiving, honesty, faithfulness, joy, trust, encouragement and more. It is impossible to pinpoint one thing that has defined or explains the role she had in my life in Italy and even now. She has done and continues to do so much for me.
I have never:
- found my spirit in distress in her presence.
- had to wonder what I would eat if I didn’t feel like cooking or if I was to have no monies left at the end of the month to go shopping
- felt alone in my faith because she was either a floor above or a phone call away
In you Constance, I found so much faith, hope, and love for all. The way you see beauty in all forced me to see people beyond just their body. You had me face some of the selfish ways within my heart and had me pull them out from the darkness. It was your love for God most of all, that guided me.
FA LU, SERAFINA, MISATO, ANITA
2nd week of April 2016
Fa Lu enters with her usual black winter boots with her bag slightly off her shoulder – a sign of her getting ready to relax into her morning.
Serafina/Sujing, who shows up midweek because she was busy exploring another side of Italy, is dressed in style from head to toe (being the fashionista that she is).
Misato has on white sneakers with faded stripes to the side, a white top and a jacket a bit too big for her body.
They all sit to the right of the semicircle in the class.
Anita, quiet, with her head down, has on black sneakers with white stripes and ankle length jeans exposing her skin (to which I think that she is crazy because it is freezing). She sits next to me on the left side, with our bags on a chair separating us.
I’m not sure if I knew then what I know now but that doesn’t matter because all that matters is Now.
We became one in heart and soul when we planned a trip to San Gimignano together as a class which was also my first trip out of Siena since arriving about 6 weeks prior.
It is very difficult to put into words how we grew into each other. We became each other’s support system, confidant, best friends, sisters, one to cry on, comedian, adventure buddies, ones to look forward to after we had gone on our own personal adventures and beyond.
We became family. My family makes fun of us and say to me that I found my siblings because I looked like a “black Chinese” when growing up, lol.
If I had to put a song to let you feel what we did, it would be Big Mountain-More Than Words.
One by one, it came time for us to leave each other and with every goodbye, my heart felt and understood love more and more. I cried the most when Serafina left in March. I had said goodbye to the ladies who never asked anything of me but my quiet company. It was just me and Fa Lu left. I write this and I feel sad and lonely because I can’t touch them or see their smiles or just be because I never had to hide what I was feeling or thinking about when in their company.
My Fantastic Four, you provided stability and a safe haven for me while in Siena. You counseled, hugged, dined with me and thought of me enough to include me in all that you did. You will never understand what that meant to a quiet soul like me and to my family as well, I Love You all so deeply.
Stay tuned for Part Two to meet some other beautiful souls!