The smallest girl in my English club stands on her tiptoes to try and reach the board, giving English her very best shot despite being only six and sitting in on her older sister’s class.
“Miss Maddy,” An older student whispers, and points at my stickers. Her eyes glitter. “Kareliey?” May I?
I nod and smile. She pulls off a sticker, and when the younger girl finishes correctly writing the answer, the older girl gives it to her. Watching from the back, while the students play an English game and help each other, I can’t help but be happy I am here, able to witness something as small as a sticker.
My girls from English club walk me home, and we do impromptu lessons along the way. We point at colors and they grin and shout them. They learn this is a tree, and this is a mountain, and this is a cloud. The sun darkens my forehead and I sweat like I’ve never sweated before, a bundle of wadded up conjugation posters in my arms.
“Miss Maddy, Miss Maddy, Inch e sa?” They ask and smile. When they run out of questions they quiz me on my Armenian.
“Goodbye!” I say when I reach the green door that is mine.
“Goodbye! Ts’aystyoon!” They call after me.
“See you tomorrow!” I grin back.
“What is tomato?”
“Che, tomorrow, vagha. Tomato, lolik,” an older girl corrects.
I laugh and go inside.
I think we’ve all got this tendency to love experience a little— to absolutely relish in foreignness, to play it up, to collect unique experiences like someone might collect coins, pushing pins in to a map like it proves something about yourself, like those pinholes are inherently meaningful.
No matter where you are, your experiences are important. And honesty, I am the same person here that I was at home, and the same worries and problems that I had there, I have here too. A new continent does not make me a new person.
Here, I still get lonely. I still take long walks and wonder if there isn’t something I should be doing differently or better. I wonder if I’m not wasting time that I could be using planning better lessons, or learning the language better. It’s hard to define what my job is for the summer, so it’s hard to quantify if and to what degree I am fulfilling it. I was hard on myself about a lot of things at home; I am still hard on myself here.
At home I used to feel stuck sometimes, and frustrated with the pace of time. I feel that here sometimes too. Just like at home, I get frustrated with myself, specifically with my language progress, and not seeing results the way I would like to.
All this isn’t to say that it’s not special here; rather to say that it’s special everywhere.
A girl who doesn’t know me at all leans on my shoulder and tells me a story, looks at me with big trusting eyes.
The stranger I meet on my run stops to talk and offers me some fruit.
I watch Moana with my students, three 13 year old girls, and they get to watch a young girl be the hero of a story, and see themselves in the storyline. They laugh at the funny parts, or pause the movie to help each other understand the new words.
It feels special when I can see my students excited about learning English and proud of themselves, or when my host family laughs at one of my clumsy jokes, or when the late night storm rolls in and the whole world is pink and orange.
And all of that is special, but all of that special is everywhere. All of those sparkling little facets of humanity, those exist here, but they exist wherever you are too.