So, dear reader, as you know, I’m in Florence, Italy.
Just to clarify, I don’t speak Italian, although I can carry on a very thorough conversation about that, in Italian. (Rant: I have no idea why language programs teach inane information first. And I have found this to be true with every language program I’ve ever used (Spanish, Italian, Russian). I’ve just done 3 lessons on Pimsleur on being able, or not being able to, understand Italian or English and to ask people if they are Italian or American. I don’t have those conversations! All I need from that is one line! “I don’t understand”. (Non capisco). My first lessons on Rosetta Stone were about reading, swimming (really!!!) eating and drinking (ok, those were somewhat useful). However, when I go into a restaurant to eat or drink, I don’t generally find myself needing to broadcast that. It seems self-evident. I’m sure I’ll get to useful language at some point. (But, I digress.). (One more quick sidenote: I’ve found the translator on the app TripLingo, http://www.triplingo.com, to be extremely useful when wifi is available).
I also don’t know anyone here. So, I stroll the Ponte Vecchio and tourist hangouts in the evenings so that I can meet and speak with people. I’ve found it surprising how many English and Russian speakers I’ve met here. I seem to do pretty well in both languages and with maps and hand gestures have been able to carry on some pretty interesting conversations. I’m not sure why, but my Russian seems to improve in countries where English is not the first language.
That’s all well and good. In fact, I chose Florence because I didn’t know the language, because I didn’t know anyone, and because I fell in love with the city when I first came here almost two decades ago. I’ll continue to learn Italian. I’ll continue to put myself in situations where I have the opportunity to meet people. However, I am currently in a “between time” and I find it insightful. I am an extrovert without the ability to interact very much.
I suppose it’s not surprising then that social media is kind of a lifeline here for me. As an extrovert (and if I ever had any doubts, I don’t now), I NEED interaction with others. In fact, I’m not just an extrovert. On the Myers-Briggs test I score as an ENFP (extrovert, intuitive, feeling, perceiver). I am described as an “enthusiastic, creative, and sociable free spirit, who can always find a reason to smile”. Here are my results: http://www.16personalities.com/enfp-personality. I won’t go into that further here, but if you read the report, you might see why I react to this situation as I do. If you’re interested in how you score, check out the free test here: http://www.16personalities.com. I was certified in Myers-Briggs years ago and taught it numerous times to classes of U.S. judges as well as American college students. It’s interesting stuff. (But, again I digress.).
Even though I’m an extrovert, I also need to disconnect sometimes and pull inward. That is the purpose of this trip, to claim some down time, to reflect, to think, to plan. Interestingly, I have found myself at times feeling isolated. It occurs to me that the possibility of connection, as a way of not feeling isolated, is extremely important to me. Not to overstate the obvious, no matter how interesting and life affirming living in a foreign country is, it can, at times, be lonely, especially if one doesn’t know anyone, or speak the language. So, to come around again, I am grateful for the internet, for my ability to connect with family and friends through Skype, FaceTime, text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, my blog, your blog, etc. On days when I don’t feel well, or when I can’t sleep, or when it’s raining too hard for me to want to venture out, I’m on here a lot. It helps me to feel connected. It helps me feel less isolated.
I think the researchers who decry the internet as the ruin of personal relationships have it wrong. The internet has the potential to allow us to interact with, to care about, to build relationships with, to strengthen relations with, and to share care with people in ways we would not be able to otherwise. I think what we are seeing is kind of a revolution in relationship that is enhanced by social media in all forms. (I plan to write more on this later and have, in fact, researched this, in an academic sense).
This is where I write: View from my window
There are other characteristics of my being an extrovert and other insights I’ve learned in my 2 weeks here that I will share in later posts. But for now I would like to leave you with a big THANK YOU!!!!! Your engagement on social media helps me feel connected in this “between time”, and that is a real gift to this extrovert. Ciao!